India Begins Deporting First Group of Myanmar Refugees Who Fled 2021 Coup

GUWAHATI, India — India on Friday began deporting the first group of Myanmar refugees who sought shelter there after a military coup in 2021 and plans to send back more in the coming days, weeks after saying it would end a visa-free border policy with Myanmar.

Thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops from Myanmar have fled to Indian states, where communities between the two countries share ethnic and familial ties, which has worried New Delhi because of the risk of communal tensions spreading to India.

“First batch of Myanmar nationals who entered India illegally deported today,” N. Biren Singh, the chief minister of northeastern Manipur state, which borders Myanmar, said in a post on the X social media platform.

Manipur planned to send back at least 77 refugees starting from Friday, according to a state government document seen by Reuters. The state has been roiled by sporadic violence that has killed nearly 200 people so far since ethnic clashes broke out in May last year.

The first group of refugees arrived in the Indian border town of Moreh and would likely be handed over on Saturday, an Indian security official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Singh shared a video clip on X showing women being brought out of security vans and taken into an airport.

New Delhi has not signed the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, which spells out refugees’ rights and states’ responsibilities to protect them, nor does it have its own laws protecting refugees.

Singh wrote in his post that the country gave “shelter & aid to those fleeing the crisis in Myanmar on humanitarian grounds with a systematic approach.”

India last month said it would end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with Myanmar for their border citizens for reasons including national security, days after the interior minister announced fencing of the 1,643-kilometer border with Myanmar.  

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