Manipur HC orders safe passage to 7 Myanmarese to Delhi for seeking protection from UNHCR

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Imphal, May 3 (PTI) The High Court of Manipur on Monday directed the authorities to grant safe passage to seven Myanmarese to New Delhi so that they can seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The seven three journalists and wife and three children of one of them had fled from Myanmar and entered Manipur illegally fearing persecution and physical danger after their media organisation was banned by the military government, the petitioner said.

The military junta that took over power in the neighbouring country in a coup in February has arrested or detained several journalists of the media house, human rights advocate Nandita Haskar said in a writ petition.

The three journalists, who along with the other four had reached Moreh in Tengnoupal district of Manipur in March, sought the help of the petitioner as they feared that they would be sent back to Myanmar for not possessing proper travel documents.

'This Court finds it just and proper to extend protection under Article 21 of the Constitution to these seven Myanmarese persons and grant them safe passage to New Delhi to enable them to avail suitable protection from the UNHCR,' a division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir said in the order.

Article 21 of the Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

The bench also ordered that the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) at the Imphal airport will immediately provide them with temporary identification cards to enable them to travel to New Delhi by air, if such identity proofs are necessary.

'The State and Central Governments shall facilitate their travel to New Delhi and shall not cause any obstruction,' the bench said.

The court had on April 20 directed the state authorities to arrange for their safe transport to Imphal in view of the threat of apprehension and deportation faced by them at Moreh. The seven were then brought to the state capital and they are now staying at the local residence of the Goa-based petitioner.

The petitioner submitted that she will make arrangements for purchase of their air tickets and their stay in New Delhi, pending consideration of their claims for refugee status by the UNHCR. This assurance is taken on record.

Human rights body Citizens Committee Manipur welcomed the high court judgment.

In a statement, its convenor Babloo Loitongbam said that it is providing basic necessities to around 500 Myanmarese people in three districts bordering Myanmar. All of them took refuge in India after the military government came to power in their country. PTI COR NN NN