Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chin- Burmese Refugee Immigration in Mizoram

Mizo’s have a history of Immigration

According to historical facts that we have, Mizo’s have migrated from China to Shan State in Burma and then on to Khampat valley where they assimilated part of the culture and then moved on to the rocky terrains of Lushai hill, known commonly known as Mizoram. With the Coming of the British , the warring clans were brought together under one district under Assam, but unfortunately with the Independence of India, the Mizo inhabited areas were split into Lushai Hills in India and the Chin Hills in Myanmar. With a free democratic society and economic progress, Mizoram is a relatively better place to live even though it’s a part of a poor country like India when compared to the repressive Junta government in Myanmar where there’s no political as well as economical freedom. Due to the suppression in Myanmar, many in Burma have chosen to migrate to mizoram for better opportunities. Contrary to long held beliefs, migrations are not only from poor to rich countries but also from one developing country to another.

Causes of Chin Migration from Burma to Mizoram

We would be able to basically classify migrations causes to two basic factors which are the push and pull factors. Push Factors refer to the motive for emigration from the country of origin due to difference in wage rates so that they can have higher standards of living to escape from poverty, the availability of jobs could be the pull factor. One of the many instances that we have here in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram is that as lot of people are working in offices, the people immigrating from Burma take up jobs like baby sitting and other labor intensive jobs in farms which are subcontracted to them by the local people.

Another non economic push factors includes frequent abuse & bullying and of the people by the army to do forced labor without any pay, they sometimes even resort to violent oppression of the indigenous tribes like the Chin and Karen who are fighting for more political freedom.

Some of course may migrate because of friends, family or loved one’s already in Mizoram, some may even be migrating to evade arrest from the oppressive regime. When these immigrants leave, they liquidate all that they have to pay for the expense of moving, and when they arrive in Mizoram, they have to cope with new laws, new place to live and exclusionary behavior towards their community by local NGO’s like the YMA, SRS or MZP creating barriers to their migration.

Views on the Chin Immigrants in Mizoram

The Chin Immigration has become a highly sensitive issue with various group politicizing it, and a majority of the people supporting anti –immigration. The main reasons for anti- immigration are economic issues, competition in the labor market, increase in crime, smuggling of drugs, prostitution, environmental issues and impact on the identity of the state due to over assimilation by people from other places. The core of the arguments being that jobs are property of the state and that allowing foreigners to take the jobs is equivalent to loss of property, and increase in law and order problem. Immigrants also tend to depress wages as they are desperate for jobs, they are also into the business of brewing alcohol which does not go along to well with the church and society as well as the state which is a dry state.

A minority of the people support immigration on the grounds that they should have freedom from a repressive regime. Medium and small business also benefit as they get low cost labor, also with economic development, the immigrants are usually willing to do the more labor intensive jobs.

Ethics of migration

According to Article 13 of the International declaration of Human Rights, Citizens may not be forbidden to leave their country. . There is no similar provision regarding entry of non-citizens. While many developed countries have selective immigration where only the educated, skilled and wealthy are welcome, leaving the poor being, Mizoram has no such choices. Despite the fact that there are hardly any skilled and wealthy people from Burma, there’s a huge demand for unskilled labor. There’s probably a misconception that immigration harms our economy but that truth is that the more immigrants we have, the more goods and services we require and the more jobs we create. It’s a well-known fact that many of the jobs immigrants come here to fill are jobs that the inhabitants of the state are not taking. And when we prevent immigrants from taking those jobs, our producers and consumers suffer the consequences. What about wages? Immigration increases the supply of domestic labor. Basic economic reasoning shows that when you increase the supply of any good, holding other things constant, its price should go down. However, immigration brings many secondary effects that offset the increased supply. Most immediately, when immigrants earn money, they demand goods and services. This increases the demand for labor, which in turn creates more jobs and pushes wages back up. A less obvious, but no less important, consequence of immigration is that with a greater supply of labor, more goods and services are produced. This leads to lower prices and an increase in the purchasing power of existing wages.

Many of the immigrants have to survive in sweat houses doing jobs behind the scene in overcrowded rooms afraid of being discovered as illegal immigrants while contributing to the economy, they are also denied fair wages as well. As most of the Burmese immigrants have migrated to Mizoram not only for economic reasons but also to escape human right violations by Myanmar, it’s important to recognize them and provide for them suitable medical care and some means of livelihood. It’s important to remember that we Mizo’s ourselves were nomads who have finally settled in Mizoram and should be hospitable to people trying to escape suppression. Let us remember that it was the Greeks who moved to Italy who inspired the Renaissance, the Immigrants who migrated to North America who have contributed to the growth of the American Superpower, as we know it.


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