The Centre on Sunday asserted that all the six refugee camps in Tripura North district, sheltering Bru families from neighbouring Mizoram, will be closed down after September 25.
The final phase of repatriation of Bru refugees is scheduled to commence from August 25 and end on September 25.
“After discussion with the Bru refugee leaders, we have come to an agreement that repatriation of 32,876 people sheltered in the camps will begin on August 25 and the process will be completed by September 25. After that, we will close down the camps,” Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, told reporters.
“If anybody wants to stay, they can stay back, but we will close the camps and stop distribution of relief,” he said.
A team of MHA officials, including Special Secretary (internal security) Rina Mitra, Adviser Mahesh Kumar Singla and Joint Secretary Satyendra Garg has been camping in Tripura for the past few days to oversee the implementation of the repatriation agreement signed on July 3 between the Centre, state governments of Mizoram and Tripura, and Bru refugees.
Speaking to reporters at Assam Rifles sector headquarters in Agartala, Garg said the repatriation was being continued as per agreement.
“The repatriation agreement was proposed by the Mizoram government in 2015 and 32,876 refugees from over 5,000 families were identified by it and the repatriation is being executed after discussion and agreement with Bru refugee leaders,” the official said.
The MHA officials met the Bru refugees for two days at Damcherra in Kanchanpur, close to the Tripura-Mizoram border, till Friday.
The Bru refugees had expressed discontent at the package and demanded a host of other benefits, including Area Development Council (ADC), cluster villages and increased land entitlement.
The refugees have been offered a package of Rs 1.5 lakh for housing assistance, Rs 4 lakh for sustenance, free ration for two years and Rs 5,000 per month as cash assistance.
The cash assistance will be provided after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram and housing assistance would be given in three instalments.
Garg said land was community property and neither the state nor the central government can grant demands for more land. However, he assured that at least 50 refugees will be settled in each village where they will be relocated.
Around 39,000 refugees fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts in Mizoram after ethnic clashes broke out in 1997.
Nearly 9,000 of them went back in seven phases of repatriation.
“I have visited those villages where the refugees returned to Mizoram in previous phases of repatriation. I do not feel there is any security threat perception. Still, the refugees will be accommodated in their home villages. In case there is shortage of land, they will be accommodated in villages of close proximity,” Garg said.
The joint secretary said the arrangement could be relaxed, allowing refugees to withdraw 90 per cent of the assured package immediately after return to Mizoram. However, the amount will be released as bank loan, he said.
Identity-related documents like Aadhaar, ration card, bank account details, documents of land settlement will be updated for all returning refugees, Garg added.