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Listen to panel 3 of the RSC's Refugee Voices conference, which took place 24–25 March at St. Anne's College, Oxford

The Chins Seeking Refuge in Mizoram State, India: A roundtable approach to refugee protection | Matthew Wilch and zo tum hmung


An estimated 100,000 Chins from Chin State, Burma, continue seeking refuge in Mizoram State, India, as Burma begins a political transition after decades of military rule. This presentation is based on interviews and group meetings with both Chins and locals during two trips to the region.

Chins fled widespread ethnic, political, and religious persecution in Burma. They now live in Mizoram as urban refugees, many also stateless, with no access to UNHCR or international protection or assistance. Marginalised as illegal immigrants, they lack status, protection, livelihood, food, water, shelter, and medical care.

During Burma’s transition period, a new regional approach is needed to better provide protection and long-term durable solutions for the Chins and others. This is a critical moment for Burma, the host countries, and the international community, to renew and expand refugee protection and humanitarian commitments.

Matthew Wilch is Refugee Policy Advisor for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and has been a human rights lawyer for over 20 years, focusing on collaborative solutions for resolving crises where refugee and humanitarian protection is not yet successfully integrated into migration management and enforcement. 

Zo Tum Hmung is a Chin community activist based in the United States. He co-authored the report 'Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India' with Matthew Wilch. He has a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School. 

Communication as aid: Giving voice to refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border | Victoria Jack


This presentation highlights the barriers restricting effective communication between aid agencies and refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border, thereby inhibiting the ability of refugees to cope with life inside camps. Ethnographic research conducted in 2013 – including interviews with more than 80 refugees and aid workers – revealed that many refugees in Thailand are unable to access important information they need to make informed decisions about their lives.

Currently, there are 150,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine official camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Recent developments in Myanmar have prompted discussions about voluntary repatriation, intensifying the need amongst refugees for the effective communication of reliable information.

This ethnography responds to a paucity of empirical studies exploring ‘communication as aid’ – a gap that exists despite the humanitarian sector demonstrating a growing awareness of the pivotal role of communication in the delivery of targeted and culturally appropriate aid to refugees worldwide. The views of refugees and aid workers provide insight into the existing information and communication environment in the camps, as well as factors influencing both the effectiveness and shortcomings of these efforts. 

Victoria Jack is a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her PhD research project investigates the role and impact of communication in assisting refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border. Previously, Victoria worked as a journalist and communications consultant.

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