UNHCR REGIONAL’S EMAIL RESPONSE TO R.AGE’S FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS,
DATED OCT 24, 2018
R.AGE: A number of NGOs and community leaders have mentioned that UNHCR India has postponed the cessation process with regards to the Chin community. Is this true? If yes, what are the reasons behind the postponement? Would these reasons apply to Malaysia?
UNHCR: The procedure described earlier in respect of Chin refugees in Malaysia is also applicable to Chin refugees in India and Nepal. In summary this procedure, as described earlier, is individual counselling in respect of UNHCR's assessment of Chin State and Sagaing Region and individual interviews and assessments in instances where refugees feel that they continue to have international protection needs. If as a result of undergoing this individual review process it is found that a Chin refugee continues to have international protection needs, then plainly they would maintain their refugee status.
The procedures in Malaysia and India are substantially the same. While India will not begin the process of individual interviews and counselling until December 2018, this is due to the operational context in India and a caseload one-fifth the size of Malaysia's. In both instances, an objective is the utilization of limited registration and processing capacity in order to meet the needs of all asylum-seeking populations.
R.AGE: Are there formal repatriation arrangements with the Myanmar government for Chin refugees?
UNHCR: UNHCR continues in efforts to engage with all authorities to ensure that the Chin population who are no longer in need of international protection are able to return in safety and dignity.
R.AGE: Community organisations and healthcare experts working with the community have reported a noticeable increase in cases of anxiety, depression and suicide ideation among Chin refugees (or asylum seekers) here in Malaysia that correlates with the recent announcement of the cessation process. How will UNHCR respond to this situation?
UNHCR: As previously described, no Chin refugee has lost their refugee status to date. While those refugees who have agreed with UNHCR's assessment that they are no longer in need of international protection continue to be documented and have status to the end December 2019, so too do those Chin refugees who continue to maintain an international protection claim and who are undergoing an individual review, interview and assessment. As the latter process is ongoing and no final decisions have yet been issued, presently all Chin refugees remain documented and fall under UNHCR's protection mandate.
UNHCR has processes in place to ensure the provision and signposting of healthcare to all refugees in need of medical attention or intervention.
R.AGE: With respect to UNHCR's continued efforts to keep all options open for the Chin community, many parties have pointed out that none of the three options - repatriation, integration, and resettlement - are realistic options. Almost none of the Chin refugees (or asylum seekers) we interviewed expressed a desire to return, there is no legal framework for local integration in Malaysia, while resettlement opportunities globally have been significantly reduced. In this situation, how does UNHCR plan to ensure the safety and dignity of this community? Are there other options that UNHCR will work towards?
UNHCR: Of those Chin refugees who have so far undergone the process of individual counselling, numbering close to 2,000 individuals, 85% have agreed with UNHCR's assessment that they are no longer in need of international protection. Additionally, as mentioned previously, these individuals continue to maintain their status until end-2019.
In the meantime, UNHCR continues in efforts to help individuals find a meaningful and durable solution. UNHCR is constantly engaged in reviewing processes and considering all options for this population and would plainly reconsider the issue should it be assessed that the Chin population, who themselves maintain have no international protection needs, cannot in fact, return in safety and dignity.