Tuesday, February 7, 2017

UN concerned over refugees clampdown

‘Decisions by certain countries can undermine integrity of international refugee protectionist regime’

UNITED NATIONS: Responding to the ongoing clampdown in the US and other countries over the admission of foreign refugees fleeing persecution, death and displacement, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern on Tuesday over decisions taken around the world that can undermine the integrity of the international refugee protectionist regime.

“Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution are finding more and more borders

closed and increasingly restricted access to the protection they need and are entitled to receive, according to international refugee law,” the UN chief said in a statement.

Guterres, who is returning to New York from a visit to Ethiopia, cited in the statement released by his office before his arrival, the case of the African country which has become the largest refugee hosting nation in Africa, and said that

Ethiopia “for decades has been keeping its borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees from its neighbours, many times in dramatic security situations”.

While emphasising that countries have the right and the obligation to responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist organisations, Guterres observed that this could not be based on any form of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity or nationality, noting that doing so “is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based”.

Guterres also cautioned that such attempts could “trigger widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda of the very terrorist organisations “we all want to fight against” and that “blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being

bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements”.

During a routine press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York, spokesperson St├ęphane Dujarric stated that Guterres was on his way back to New York from the African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and he had had the opportunity to express his disagreement with the United States Executive Order on refugees.

Guterres’ statement follows President Donald Trump’s signing last Friday of an Executive Order which, among other things, suspended the US refugee programme for 120 days and also bars entry of refugees from seven – mostly Muslim – countries namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan,

Syria and Yemen until further notice.
Guterres’ remarks are also seen as lending weight to the “deep concern” already expressed by the UN Refugee Agency over the uncertainty facing thousands of refugees in the resettlement process in the United States after the country announced it was suspending refugee programmes last week.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that more than 800 refugees were set to make America their new home this week alone, but were instead blocked from travelling to the US. — Bernama

Malaysia gives work permits to 300 Muslim Rohingyas

PUTRAJAYA: New hope has dawned for 300 Rohingya refugees in the country.

They can now work legally in the plantation and manufacturing sector from next month.

They have been selected to be part of a pilot project that allows the Rohingya, who are United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) card holders, to work in Malaysia.

“This first batch of 300 will be placed in selected companies in order to equip them with skills and a source of income before they are relocated to another country,” Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a statement.
He said those selected would still have to pass security and health screenings first.

Yesterday, Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, chaired a high-level committee meeting on UNHCR-related issues at his office here.

He said the National Security Council (NSC) was currently looking to upgrade the NSC Order No. 23.

The order enhances the management of UNHCR card holders in Malaysia.

“The order needs to keep up with the current developments, including the irregular movement of migrants in South-East Asia,” he said.

NSC Order No. 23 is related to the management of illegal immigrants in Malaysia, and includes measures on how to reduce their numbers.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the Government also formed a joint task force that consisted of the UNHCR and six ministries, to deal with the matter of fake UNHCR card holders.

“This (joint task force) will help ensure the authenticity of any UNHCR card holders; whether these people are truly those who are authorised,” he said.

The statement said there were a total of 149,474 documented UNHCR card holders from 62 countries in Malaysia.
At least 133,517 or 89% are from Myanmar, with more than 55,000 of them of Rohingya ethnicity.

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my

UNHCR lauds government work scheme for refugees

Win-win for Malaysia’s security and economy, and refugee protection

Kuala Lumpur, 3 February 2017 (UNHCR) - UNHCR welcomes the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday regarding a pilot project that will allow an initial group of 300 Rohingya refugees to work in the plantation and manufacturing sectors in the country.

UNHCR believes that a scheme that allows genuine refugees the opportunity to work lawfully would have a remarkable and positive impact on their quality of protection.

It would also help the Government deal with its legitimate concerns about criminality and security, and provide a source of willing labour to support the Malaysian economy.

A scheme that allows refugees to live and work legally in Malaysia would transform the quality and protection of their lives. Greater self-sufficiency among refugee communities would lead to better health and education, and significantly reduce the burden on the host state.

It would also provide a stronger basis for refugees to plan their future, including returning to their home countries with transferrable skills to start their new lives.

UNHCR is convinced that this new approach is a ‘win-win’ for the people of Malaysia for its security and economy, and for refugees who live here temporarily. It is our hope that after an initial pilot phase, this scheme can be expanded to benefit all refugees in the country.

UNHCR welcomes the cooperation it enjoys with the Government of Malaysia, including through the recent Joint Task Force to tackle the complex challenges of mixed migration and refugees in Malaysia.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Trump administration to allow 872 refugees into US this week

WASHINGTON: The US government has granted waivers to let 872 refugees into the country this week, despite President Donald Trump’s executive order on Friday temporarily banning entry of refugees from any country, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security document seen by Reuters.
A Homeland Security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the waivers, noting that the refugees were considered “in transit” and had already been cleared for resettlement before the ban took effect.
Refugees preparing for resettlement typically have severed personal ties and relinquished their possessions, leaving them particularly vulnerable if their plans to depart are suddenly canceled.
The waivers, granted by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), came amid international protests against Trump’s rushed executive order. Critics said the order in some cases was not clearly communicated to the agencies responsible for implementing it.
It was not known if additional waivers would be granted, the official said. The document did not give the nationalities of the refugees who will be admitted into the United States.


Over the weekend, non-refugee visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries also targeted in Trump’s executive order were detained, deported and in some cases blocked from boarding flights to the United States.
The countries covered by the traveler ban were Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
The internal DHS document said that between late Friday and early Monday 348 visa holders were prevented from boarding US-bound flights. In addition, more than 200 people landed in the United States but were denied entry, the document showed.
More than 735 people were pulled aside for questioning by US Customs and Border Protection officers in airports, including 394 legal permanent US residents holding green cards, over the same time period.
Trump said the executive order he signed on Friday was designed to protect the United States “from foreign terrorist entry.”
The order stopped all refugee admissions for 120 days while government officials determine how to ensure that any refugees admitted do not pose a threat.
The 872 refugees to be admitted this week, under the waivers, were screened using Obama administration procedures, which typically take two years and include several interviews and a background check.
The DHS said on Sunday night that green card holders would be allowed to board US-bound flights, but would be subjected to additional scrutiny upon arrival.


The public guidance from DHS also said some people from the seven majority-Muslim countries could be allowed entry to the United States on a case-by-case basis.
Congressional Democrats and some foreign countries, including key US allies, put pressure on Trump on Monday over the executive order.
Democratic Senators tried to force a vote on a bill to rescind the order, but were blocked by a Republican lawmaker. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she had 27 co-sponsors for the legislation. But under Senate rules it takes only one member to prevent a vote, and Republican Senator Tom Cotton blocked consideration of the measure.
The Democrats’ leader in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, said he would bring legislation on Monday evening seeking to end the ban, although the measure stood little chance of being passed by the Republican-led Congress. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Thursday, January 26, 2017

In report, watchdog says human rights in Malaysia on downward trend

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The human rights situation in Malaysia showed a “marked deterioration” in 2016 due to increased arrests of government critics and expanded restrictions on public assembly, the Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2017. The report, which was released tonight, detailed the state of human rights in more than 90 countries. “The Malaysian government has responded to corruption allegations by throwing respect for rights out the window,” said Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson in a statement. “By bringing a slew of prosecutions against those expressing dissenting views or peacefully protesting, the government is seriously undermining democratic institutions and the rights of all Malaysian citizens,” he added. The report cited the extensive use of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) to arrest those who are deemed critical of the government.

The CMA was also used to charge editor-in-chief of the Malaysiakini news website Steven Gan and CEO Premesh Chandran after its video arm uploaded the video of a press conference calling for the Attorney-General to resign. It also cited the November 18 arrest of Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, where she was held 11 days under the controversial law that provides for detention without trial. “The Malaysian government should step back from its repressive course, bring its laws into line with international standards, and start respecting fully the rights of everyone in Malaysia,” Robertson said. The report also said that the police torture of suspects in custody remained a “serious problem” in 2016, while a lack of accountability for police brutality also remained an issue.

The report also raised issue regarding Malaysia’s anti-trafficking efforts, saying that it had failed to effectively implement amendments made in 2014 to its anti-trafficking law. “No progress has been made in identifying and investigating suspects involved in the deaths of over 100 suspected victims of trafficking whose bodies were found in mass graves on the Thai-Malaysian border in 2015,” he added.

Over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom come from Myanmar, have registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia but are unable to work, travel, or enrol in government schools. The lack of status leaves them highly vulnerable to abuses,” the report added.

It also noted judicial freedom as an area of concern, over proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act that it said would allow the government to “interfere” with the Bar’s actions. “In addition, they would increase the quorum needed for a general meeting from 500 to 4,000 members, or 25 per cent of the bar’s 17,000 membership, making it virtually impossible for the bar to take action at its general meetings.

The bill to amend the Legal Profession Act is likely be introduced when parliament next sits in March 2017,” it said. It also described discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia to be “pervasive”. “Numerous Sharia-based laws and regulations prohibiting a “man posing as a woman,” sexual relations between women, and sexual relations between men effectively criminalize LGBT people,” the report added. -
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UNHCR welcomes Thailand’s approval of framework for refugee screening mechanism

The UN Refugee Agency Monday expressed a warm welcome for the Thai Government’s recent approval of a framework to enhance the identification and protection of refugees.

Last Tuesday, the Cabinet approved in principle a proposal to finalise and implement a screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants and refugees.

Following the approval, a deputy government spokesman the process will be led by the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police, working with a newly-created inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Prime Minister or his deputy.


Together they will build on an existing draft by the Council of State and finalize a detailed draft Regulation to be presented for approval by the Cabinet. He added that this would be done in collaboration and cooperation with foreign governments or foreign government agencies, international organizations and relevant non-governmental organizations.

UNHCR said in a press statement Monday that it has long been advocating for such a screening mechanism in a country that has hosted more than 1 million refugees over the years without a comprehensive legal framework. Under Thailand’s current Immigration Act, urban refugees and asylum-seekers can be considered “illegal aliens” and are subject to arrest and detention if they do not have valid documentation.

“This Cabinet action represents an important and concrete step towards creating an appropriate regulatory framework for refugee management and protection in Thailand,” the statement quoted Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand, as saying. “We hope it will clearly establish the criteria and methodology for deciding who is and isn’t a refugee, and outline their rights and obligations in Thailand.”


Last week’s announcement builds upon specific pledges designed to improve protection and solutions for refugees in Thailand made by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the September 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees convened by US President Barack Obama in New York.

“With more than 65 million people forcibly displaced globally, it is crucial that States and international actors work hand in hand to respond to growing humanitarian needs,” said Menikdiwela. “It is heart-warming to see Thailand acting upon pledges made in New York, and once again taking a leadership role in the ASEAN region in addressing complex issues related to refugees and stateless persons.”

UNHCR continues to offer technical and other assistance in full support of finalizing and implementing an appropriate regulatory framework for refugee management and protection in Thailand, the statement added.


The country currently hosts nearly 8,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in urban areas and more than 102,000 Myanmar refugees in nine camps on the border with Myanmar.

Refugee ban likely to top Trump's agenda on Wednesday

• Trump will take executive actions directing federal funds toward building the border wall

• He's also expected to target so-called sanctuary cities

• Trump is planning major National Security decisions on Wednesday

WASHINGTON, U.S. - A White House official has confirmed the president will take executive actions on Wednesday directing federal funds toward building the proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

He's also expected to target so-called sanctuary cities where local leaders refuse to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

The newly inaugurated president is also said to be weighing proposals that would restrict the flow of refugees to the country.

Hinting at the announcement, on Tuesday, Trump tweeted, "Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!"

Trump will make the announcement during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security at 1:25 p.m. ET as part of sweeping and immediate changes to the nation’s immigration system.

To build the wall without needing Congressional approval, Trump could make use of a 2006 law, Secure Fence Act, which authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile frontier.

That bill led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing along the border with Mexico.

Throughout the campaign in the run-up to the election, Trump reiterated his pledge to bring illegal immigration under control and Wednesday's actions would represent Trump’s first effort to deliver on what he believes is what led him to victory.

The details of how the refugee program will be dealt with are still unclear.

Expectations in his inner circle are that Trump would take action on visas and refugees on Thursday.

According to reports, an order is being prepared with drastic measures to suspend the entire refugee program for four months for Trump’s sign off.

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The measure is being proposed in a bid to gauge which nationality of migrants posed the least risk for U.S. National Security.

Further, reports noted that the program that facilitates the admission of Syrian refugees in the country would be ended indefinitely.

According to people close to the matter, the draft specifies that migrants that engage in bigotry, so-called "honor killings" by males of their female relatives, and violence against women shouldn't be admitted.

It would cap the total number of refugees admitted in the 2017 fiscal year at 50,000.

It would also direct the Pentagon and U.S. State Department to plan "safe zones" inside Syria, which the previous administration rejected as unlikely to alleviate civilian suffering.

According to the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, in the first three days of the Trump administration, the U.S. admitted 136 Syrian refugees.

During his campaign, Trump had adopted a hardline immigration policy, which would include a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" until the US government could properly vet people coming in.

In a statement, the National Iranian American Council said, “Donald Trump is making good on the most shameful and discriminatory promises he made on the campaign trail. He called for a Muslim ban and is now taking the first steps to implement one. This will not stand. The American people are better than this.”

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Bringing this campaign promise to the fore, on Monday, Spicer said, “First and foremost, the President's been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record - a criminal record or poses a threat to the American people. That's where the priorities going to be."

He could also issue orders to as potentially bar for 30 days the issuance of U.S. visas to people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all Muslim-majority countries — until new visa procedures are developed.

"My understanding is he'll have some announcements tomorrow on immigration enforcement,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“I would expect action on enforcement sooner than later.”


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Minister to travel to Malaysia for refugee selection mission

Tuesday, 24 January 2017, 5:28 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon Michael Woodhouse
Minister of Immigration

24 January 2017 Media Statement
Minister to travel to Malaysia for refugee selection mission

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse will today travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as part of an Immigration NZ (INZ) selection mission to interview refugee cases who have been submitted for resettlement in New Zealand by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

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“In addition to the UNHCR’s own screening process, all refugee cases submitted for consideration undergo robust assessments as part of INZ’s decision-making process,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“This trip is an opportunity for me to observe those refugee interviews undertaken by INZ staff and gain an insight into the important work INZ staff do on refugee quota selection missions.

“Selection mission interviews focus on credibility, risk and settlement to ensure that the person is not a security risk or character of concern to New Zealand, and that settlement in New Zealand is the right option for them.

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“This work is an integral part of ensuring that those refugees who are resettled in New Zealand do not pose a risk to the country and that they are well prepared to settle in the communities.”

Mr Woodhouse will also meet with UNHCR staff at their office in Kuala Lumpur, as well as visit a number of centres that provide education and health support to refugees.

Mr Woodhouse departs for Kuala Lumpur this evening and returns on Saturday 28 January.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Let all refugees in Malaysia work, say human rights activists

PETALING JAYA: All refugees regardless of their country of origin should be accorded the opportunity to work in Malaysia, say human rights activists.

While welcoming the Government's decision to provide training in semi-skilled areas for Rohingya in country who are UNHCR cardholders, activists say there should not be discrimination against other refugees.

Tenaganita programme director Aegile Fernandez said when contacted that many of the refugees here had been in Malaysia for a long time and had no opportunity to be resettled.

"There is more attention on the Rohingya now because of the situation they are in but we shouldn't discriminate. Just extend it to all," she said, adding that such a support system was good in the long run for the refugees.

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Fernandez added that the refugees could take back home the skills they learned if the situation permitted.

There is a spotlight on the Rohingya at the moment because of the situation in the Rakhine state in Myanmar where they are being persecuted.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have said on Thursday that the Government aims to provide training in semi-skilled areas for the Rohingya with UNHCR cards so that they can apply for Temporary Employment Passes (PLKS) which will then enable them to obtain employment.

Amnesty International Malaysia said that all refugees should be viewed as a growth sector in the country.

"This is certainly a step forward towards recognising the rights of refugees. We do hope, however, that all refugees, regardless of their country of origin, will be accorded the same opportunity," its director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said.

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She said that with Dr Ahmad Zahid's announcement, the Government seemed to be officially acknowledging the status of refugees in the country.

She also reiterated Amnesty's call for Malaysia to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention immediately.

"The convention defines the term 'refugee', which is absent in Malaysian law, and outlines the rights of the displaced as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

"We ask that the Government demonstrate its commitment to aid the Rohingya and the wider refugee community in Malaysia by acceding to this international instrument," she said.

As of October of last year, there were some 150,669 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia.

More than 135,000 of them are from Myanmar, comprising 54,856 Rohingya, 41,420 Chins, 10,928 Myanmar Muslims, 5,221 Rakhines and Arakanese, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

The balance 15,000 are from other countries, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rohingya Leader: 90,000 Already in Malaysia Willing to Work

RFA Friday 9th December, 2016

A day after Myanmar's government announced it would no longer send workers to Malaysia, a migrant-group leader said about 90,000 Rohingya Muslims already in the country were willing to take jobs.

Faisal Islam Muhammad Kassim, president of the Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM), told BenarNews on Thursday that allowing members of his group to get jobs and seek education in Malaysia would help many who live in shared flats and houses have better lives.

"We would like to work and earn our income," said Faisal, a statistics graduate from a Myanmar university who earns his keep in Malaysia through translation work for media outlets and other odd jobs.

"We then can have access to health insurance if we are able to work legally here. Our children can also receive proper education," said Faisal, who has been in Malaysia for three years without a full-time job.

In response, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan supported the idea following Myanmar's move on Wednesday.

"I personally believe when the Myanmar government decided to stop sending workers, the government should allow Rohingya refugees who are currently in Malaysia to work.

"But the policy must be firm. No refugees who come after a certain date should be allowed to work so that the country won't be overrun by Rohingya refugees," Shamsuddin told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Ministry of Human Resources has not received official notification from Myanmar about its prohibition on migrant workers heading to Malaysia. Human Resources Minister Richard Riot said such a move would not change the number of foreign workers in the country.

"About 100,000 Myanmar workers are working in Malaysia with most of them in the manufacturing sector," he said, adding the nation had enough foreign workers with most coming from Bangladesh.

In addition, Malaysia recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia to bring in workers, he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.


About 56,000 Rohingya in Malaysia have received refugee status cards from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur. Faisal said another 35,000 were not recognized by UNHCR, which protects refugees but does not allow them to work legally.

Shamsuddin said the number of refugees was much higher, claiming that 150,000 Rohingya were in Malaysia and had no legal access to jobs.

In November, UNHCR told the Reuters news service that it was working with Malaysian officials on a pilot program to allow a few Rohingya - 300 over three years - to work in Malaysia's plantation and manufacturing sectors.

Political fallout

Myanmar on Wednesday said it had temporarily stopped sending workers to Malaysia over the "current situation in Malaysia," but without elaboration and apparently in response to bilateral tensions over a military crackdown in Rakhine state.

Myanmar's army has conducted security sweeps in the northern part of the state that borders Bangladesh following deadly attacks on Burmese border guard posts in early October. Authorities have blamed Rohingya militants for those attacks.

Soldiers have been accused of committing extrajudicial killings, rape and arson in Rohingya communities. The military has denied committing any atrocities and has blamed the arson that reportedly destroyed hundreds of homes on Rohingya. More than 20,000 Rohingya have crossed into southeastern Bangladesh in recent weeks as they have fled from the violence in Rakhine, the International Organization for Migration said this week.

On Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led a rally in Kuala Lumpur where he condemned violence against Rohingya Muslims as "genocide" and urged other Asian nations to increase pressure on Myanmar to stop the bloodletting.

The move prompted Myanmar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kyaw Tin to summon Malaysian Ambassador Mohd Haniff Bin Abd Rahman to express dismay over Najib's remarks and reject accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Educational opportunities

Faisal said large populations of Rohingya were in Kuala Lumpur Selangor, and the northern state of Penang. Their children attend schools run by non-governmental organizations.

"We expect that there are more than what we've recorded. UNHCR is giving cards to those who really need it like the sickly and those who had been detained by the authorities and kept at the immigration depot," said Faisal, 34, the father of a 5-month-old.

Lydia Amira, a teacher at a Rohingya NGO school in Kuala Lumpur supported calls for educational rights for Rohingya.

"These students have potential. We want them to have language and knowledge so that they can survive the outside world. It's no different from normal, non-refugee kids.

"From just teaching them language, basic English, a number of our students were accepted for relocation efforts into the United States, perhaps with what we are teaching here, one day they can go back to their country and rebuild it with what they learned," she told BenarNews.

Reported by Muzliza Mustafa, A. Ariffin and Hadi Azmi for BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Copyright 1998-2014, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Najib opens thorny debate in Myanmar genocide claim

Myanmar considering lodging an official complaint with Asean over what it calls a serious breach of pledge of non-interference in fellow member's domestic issues.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stern rebuke to Myanmar for a military-led crackdown on Muslim Rohingyas was a rarity among Southeast Asian nations, who adhere to a policy of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.

Critics saw the beleaguered Najib reaching for the moral high ground with his criticism over the weekend of Myanmar in order to pander to Malay Muslim voters after a series of protests calling for him to resign over a corruption scandal.

Najib is eyeing elections in the second half of 2017, nearly a year ahead of the August 2018 deadline, a government source told Reuters.

At a rally on Sunday, Najib called for foreign intervention to stop the “genocide” of Rohingya Muslims and lashed out at Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for her inaction.

The persecution of the Rohingyas in Rakhine state, however, has been going on for years. It has forced hundreds of thousands to board flimsy boats and flee to neighbouring countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia – which along with Myanmar are all members of Asean.

More than 100,000 Rohingya live in poverty and face harassment as illegal migrants in Malaysia. Many others fell into the hands of human traffickers on their perilous journeys from Myanmar.

Myanmar incensed

The Myanmar government was incensed by Najib’s criticism.

Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said Myanmar was considering lodging an official complaint with Asean, the bloc of 10 Southeast Asian nations that agree on economic cooperation but pledge non-interference in each other’s domestic issues.

“He (Najib) could have tried to handle this issue diplomatically through the ambassadors,” Zaw Htay was quoted telling the local media in Myanmar. He accused Najib of looking to win popular support among his Muslim voters.

Myanmar said this week it was halting workers going to Malaysia in response to the comments.

But Najib in his rally speech suggested that Asean must set aside its principle of non-interference to tackle regional issues like the Rohingya repressions and migrations, especially when they pose questions about universal values.

“We want to remind Myanmar’s government that the Asean charter also upholds basic human rights,” the prime minister said in his speech.

Invisible migrants

Rohingyas in Malaysia applauded Najib’s intervention.

“Rohingya people are hoping something may change in Myanmar – and also in Malaysia, where many of us live,” said Faisal Islam Muhammad Kassim of the Rohingya Society in Malaysia.

Many of them live in squalor in Kuala Lumpur’s suburbs, working illegally in restaurants and construction sites, where they are routinely underpaid. Families and single men live in matchbox apartments with over half a dozen cramped into one room.

“We are harassed everyday … by the cops and by everyone,” said a Rohingya migrant living illegally, who did not want to be identified. “We have no dignity here.”

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees, which means all refugees, including Rohingya, are viewed as illegal migrants awaiting resettlement in a third country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Malaysia, Richard Towle, said Rohingyas in Malaysia are in the “invisible bottom 30% of society, and very much at risk of exploitation and abuse”.

“Although it’s proper to highlight the situation in Myanmar itself, it’s also very important to look at the situation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh and here in Malaysia, where there is a lot we can still do to make their lives more secure and safer,” Towle said.

Pressure of scandal

Najib’s popularity dropped after he was linked to a multi-billion dollar graft scandal at state fund 1MDB. Tens of thousands marched on the streets of Kuala Lumpur last month, demanding he step down and face corruption charges.

Najib has denied wrongdoing and has used powerful security laws to block dissenters and his opponents.

He needs the support of the powerful Islamist party PAS, to secure a convincing win in the next elections. Najib has put his weight behind an Islamic law, hudud, that sets out punishments such as amputation and stoning.

The law may be tabled in parliament next year.

“Quite clearly, there is a major domestic political dimension to this, as Najib positions himself as the champion of downtrodden Muslims in the region, which he and Umno obviously believe will be popular in the Malay Muslim heartland,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.

“And of course, talking about the Rohingya is a good way to change the subject from the 1MDB scandal,” he added.

Najib’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

First feathered dinosaur tail discovered in amber

PanArmenian.Net Saturday 10th December, 2016

PanARMENIAN.Net - Scientists have found dinosaur-era feathers and evidence of them in fossil impressions before. But this is the first time they've discovered a full-feathered tail section preserved in amber, ripe for forensic analysis and Spielbergian dreams, Engadget said.

Paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences led the research, as detailed in a report that came out in the journal Current Biology. The sample itself, known as DIP-V-15103 and unofficially as "Eva" after the wife of the report's co-author, came from a mine in Kachin, a state in northern Myanmar. Based on the structure of the tail, it likely came from a Cretaceous-era young coelurasaur, a subgroup of therapods that includes everything from tyrannosauruses to birds, points out National Geographic.

While you should check your excitement for the possibilities of dino DNA, the preserved feathers gave the scientists forensic insight into their role. The encased plumage seems to be ornamental rather than functional: Previous research by the same team found that birds from this sample's era had similar feathers to those of birds today. In short, if the rest of the tail looked like Eva, this dino likely wouldn't have been able to fly, Engadget said.

Xing and his team didn't dig the sample up, however -- they collected it from an amber market in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin. Burmese amber is often used as jewelry, and Eva had already been shaped by the time it was collected with other samples in 2015.

Myanmar to Seek Legal Recourse Against British Tabloid Over False Report

RFA Saturday 10th December, 2016

The Myanmar government will take legal action against a British tabloid that published a fabricated report and false images allegedly showing an army soldier torturing a Rohingya Muslim child in the country's troubled Rakhine state, a government spokesman said Friday.

The photos and a video published Wednesday on the Daily Mail's website shows a laughing soldier using a stun gun on a naked toddler who is crying and appears to roll over in pain on the ground.

Myanmar security forces cracked down on the Rohingya in the northern part of Rakhine state following deadly attacks on three border guard stations in early October. The Rohingya have accused the soldiers of extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arson, though the military and government have denied the allegations.

The government will respond legally and journalistically to the Daily Mail for its wrongful publication of the photos, Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President's Office, told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"For this case, we will respond by legal means or by international journalistic procedures," he said.

"At the moment, Daily Mail has not taken any responsibility for its wrongful coverage, but the damage has done by dissemination through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media," he said.

The images are from an incident that occurred in Cambodia's Mondulkiri province, he said.

A Dutch man and two Vietnamese men have been arrested for torturing the boy in the photos, while a third Vietnamese man is still being sought, according to a report by state-run Myanmar News Agency (MNA).

Zaw Htay said the fabrication of the story continues to damage the image of Myanmar and its people.

The government has come under fire from western countries, the United Nations, and a few predominantly Muslim countries in Asia for its handling of the crisis in Rakhine and failure to ensure the security of the Rohingya.

Zaw Htay also said the President's Office is calculating the amount of damage caused via social media and will consult the attorney general about how it can seek legal recourse against the newspaper.

The Daily Mail removed the story and images by Dave Burke from its website soon after they were found to be inaccurate, but archived versions of the article are still circulating on social media, the MNA report said.

The Myanmar government has charged other outside news organizations with publishing inaccurate reports about the security operations in northern Rakhine state.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Copyright 1998-2014, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Rohingya finds their truly Leaders in Malaysia

Egalitaria - Rohingya refugee rights

AT A "Solidarity March" two weekends ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak protested the atrocities taking place in Myanmar, condemning Myanmar for what he considered as the "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya community.

What is happening in Myanmar is without a doubt disturbing, and requires international attention. But Najib needs to turn his eye to the refugee conditions on home ground in Malaysia.

First, Malaysia sits on the United Nations Security Council and could have used this position to act on its concerns, but through the appropriate channels.

If it wants to elevate the seriousness of the developments at an international level, the government could table an emergency motion on what it considers to be the genocide of the Rohingyas in Myanmar at the UN Security Council.

Second, Malaysia has not yet signed or ratified the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which means the government does not formally or legally recognise refugees in the country.

This includes Rohingyas, who are therefore not recognised as refugees. The implications of this are, namely, that the government can act according to its whims and fancies whenever it is convenient for it to appear humanitarian.

Second, it does not have to comply with any sort of rules in its treatment of refugees. The convention would require member states to provide certain protections, such as the right to work, the right not to be expelled, and the right to freedom of religion,
among others.

The only document refugees in Malaysia have is a UNHCR card (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), issued upon interviews and certification by the UNHCR itself. Even so, the Malaysian authorities have reportedly thrown these cards away.

An expose took place in March 2015 of syndicates selling fake UNHCR cards for as cheap as RM50 a card. A documentary by Al-Jazeera in late 2014 also exposed allegations of abuse of refugees – refugees were seen chained and handcuffed, and said they had been beaten and exploited and left little food and water – as well as claims of corruption within the UNHCR.

The UNHCR has responded by issuing new cards with increased security features to combat identity fraud and counterfeiting.

All of these incidents underscore more importantly that there is a need for the government to work closely with the UNHCR and other agencies offering refugee care and services to come out with clear policies and regulations on managing the refugee issue in a more systematic way.

Since Najib has taken a keen interest in human rights – in his rally speech he stated that one of the articles in the Asean charter was for Asean to uphold human rights – he should also consider signing and ratifying a host of other international human rights conventions.

This would include the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, two of which are considered to be the most basic of human rights conventions for any modern democracy.

Third, recall that it was only in May last year that there were an estimated 6,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees who were stranded at sea because authorities turned them away. (The government did change its position subsequently to allow the boat people to land in Malaysia.)

The then deputy home minister had said: "We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here", after 1,000 refugees landed on the shores of Langkawi. Recall that after being on the boat for more than three months, their boats' captains and crew abandoned them, leaving about 10 passengers to die.

Finally, there are already Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, many of whom are being detained under horrible conditions in detention centres, some of which have been mentioned above.

Why has the government not turned a kind eye to treat our existing refugees with the love our leaders now profess? Why the sudden attention now, when they have been languishing for years?

As of the end of October 2016, there are more than 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, of which some 54,856 are Rohingyas. Why focus solely on one community's conditions?

Other refugees in Malaysia include those from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

One should not discriminate based on country of origin, the level of care and attention provided.

All have experienced persecution and suffering and have been forced to leave their countries because of serious discrimination or armed conflict, and are in search of a better future.

The prime minister should sign and ratify the UN Refugee Convention, table an emergency motion at the UN Security Council to debate this crisis, and finally turn his eyes to the horrid conditions the Rohingya and other refugees have to suffer on home soil itself.


( More than 3,000 Bengali Muslims impersonating as Rohingyas to obtain UNHCR card )

ALOR STAR: More than 3,000 Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh are said to have posed as Rohingya refugees to obtain United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards in the past 10 years.

According to Kedah Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM) chairman Mohd Noor Abu Bakar, members of the ethnic group which lives in the neighbouring province of Chittagong in Bangladesh at the border with Myanmar have similar facial and complexion features as well as an almost similar language with ethnic Rohingyas to obtain the UNHCR card.

For the purpose (of getting the card), he claimed that the Bengali Muslims were also trained to use the Rohingya accent and were prepared for questions by UNHCR interviewers.

They claimed they came from Maungdaw, a Rohingya area in Rakhine, Myanmar, he said.

The UNHCR card is said to be good to seek employment in Malaysia which is considered a gold mine for its stable policies and ample employment opportunities.

"They entered Rakhine and later joined Rohingyas to take boats to Malaysia. They are not refugees," he said in an interview with Bernama here today.

Meanwhile, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) International Studies Centre senior lecturer Associate Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said if the allegation was true, the Rohingya Association should take immediate action to assist UNHCR identify the real Rohingyas.

"They (Rohingya Association) should sit down with UNHCR on the matter as they know the Rohingya better," he said, adding that this was because the policy of Malaysia in accepting refugees was not a matter which could be abused as it was based on humanitarian grounds.

"Otherwise Malaysia should not open its doors to refugees taking advantage of the situation. We do not want them to bring their country's problems here," he added. — Bernama


Image result for Najib rohingya

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has condemned the violence against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, and said he was ready to face any eventualities with open support for the ethnic group. 

The Prime Minister said he was aware of a statement by the Myanmar government yesterday that it would regard Najib as interfering with its internal affairs should he attend the Rohingya solidarity assembly tomorrow. 

Najib, who is also Umno president, however, said he would not be moved by such a threat and that this was the party and the government's stand. 

"I'd like to tell them (Myanmar government) that this is not a question of interfering with their affairs. But this is about defending humanity. 

"I will not be moved even an inch, because I will be present at the assembly not just as Najib, but representing the three million Umno members, and this is our stand!" he said during his winding-up speech at the Umno General Assembly, here, today. 

"Furthermore, how can they say that this is not our concern when what they are doing will only force the Rohingyas out of the country, and into Malaysia as well," he added. 

Najib pointed out that presently, there were already over 56,000 Rohingyas holding the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards registered in the country.

He said the violent killings and raping of the Rohingyas is not something that is acceptable in the Asean community.

"Asean cannot tolerate any uncivilised and inhumane behaviours, and we urge them to change their attitude. 

"This is Umno's stand. Whatever happens after this, let it happen. We are firm with our stand," he said, to the roar of some 3,000 delegates present.

Source : http://www.thesundaily.my/

Myanmar’s snub to Msia’s megaphone diplomacy

Malaysia lost much diplomatic clout and regional respect after its leaders participated in a rally protesting the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Image result for Najib rohingya

By Azrul Mohd Khalib

Last week’s Titiwangsa rally in support of the Rohingya in Myanmar must have left regional observers shaking their heads, first in wonderment, followed by bewilderment. That the rally was held itself was not the cause for the head scratching.

After all, rallies are held commonly enough these days, and the right and acceptable sort would not only be speedily granted permission, it would also not cause the organisers to be interrogated by police.

Solidarity gatherings and demonstrations in protest of the atrocities against and persecution of the Rohingya community in Rakhine State, organised especially after Friday prayers, have been held in the past by NGOs, political parties and even members of the Rohingya community themselves here in Malaysia.

What was strange about this obviously state-sponsored and state-supported rally was the presence of senior members of the Malaysian government, including the Prime Minister.

This is the same administration that was involved in the Andaman Sea refugee crisis more than a year ago. In that infamous incident, Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities intercepted boats full of starving, dying and desperate refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants and pushed them back out to sea.

Abandoned by human smugglers and traffickers, many of these boats were filled from bow to stern, and contained an estimated total of 6,000 men, women and children, many of whom were Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar. Most were without food and water. Hundreds perished as countries, including Malaysia, played a three-way game of “human ping pong” over a number of weeks.

Half of the boats managed to slip through and were rescued by Indonesian and Malaysian fishermen. The rest were believed to have perished.

One year on from the crisis, the outcomes of several meetings of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration organised through the Bali Process have indicated that the countries of the region have learnt from that incident. They have since built structures and policies to improve regional and collective actions on future incidences of forced migration.

But one outcome was clear from these discussions: the essential need to engage decisively with Myanmar to ensure that future Andaman Sea refugee crises do not occur. It is critical that the root causes of this migration are addressed. To do so, it will fundamentally require Myanmar’s cooperation.

Prior to the rally, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi apparently made it clear to Foreign Minister Anifah Aman that ‘If you (Anifah) want to see me on bilateral issues yes, but I’m not willing to see you if you want to discuss the Rohingya issue’.” A spokesperson later reminded Malaysia not to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs.

At the rally, Najib responded aggressively by asking “do they (Myanmar government) want me to close my eyes? Want me to be mute?”

“There is an article in the Asean charter that says Asean (members) must uphold human rights. Are they blind? Don’t just interpret as you choose.”

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi even mocked Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize award and called for the international court of criminal justice to take action against the leaders of Myanmar.

But I am reminded by what Najib said at the recent International Conference of Asian Political Parties. He called on the Conference to respect the principle of “non-interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries.” He stated that citizens who call on foreign powers to intervene in the affairs of their countries were not patriots.

What is happening to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is monstrous and requires concerted international action to prevent any further escalation of the violence, and ultimately, to save lives.

Arguably, the recent actions of the government jeopardise any further possibility of Malaysia playing a credible part or sincere role in ensuring a long-term resolution to what is happening in Rakhine State.

In comparison, Indonesia’s quiet diplomacy which involved the sending of humanitarian aid to Rakhine State following the October 9 incident, the building of two schools and a medical centre, is clearly preferred by Myanmar.

Last week, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi met with Suu Kyi after the latter extended an invitation to Indonesia to openly discuss the situation in Rakhine State. A clear snub towards Malaysia’s megaphone diplomacy.

Unless Malaysia and Indonesia were doing a “good cop/bad cop” routine, it is very clear that our cousins across the Malacca Straits will now probably be in a better position to help.

For the sake of the Rohingya community in Rakhine State, I hope the Indonesians succeed in their approach.

As a result of this grandstanding and pandering to short-term domestic political optics, Malaysia has lost much diplomatic clout, respect and regional respect.

And what did we gain? Very little for those who need help the most.

Azrul Mohd Khalib is an FMT reader. 

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

Source : http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/

Monday, November 21, 2016

Call to allow Rohingya refugees to work legally

PETALING JAYA: With the number of refugees in Malaysia on the rise, it is high time the government ensures their basic human rights are protected.

A member of parliament and a rights organisation said, instead of bringing in foreign workers, these refugees should be given the jobs.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the government should help those seeking refuge here with a chance at a normal life while waiting for permanent placements.

He described the government’s current management of the refugees as “poor”, due to the fact that most of them were destitute.
Santiago said how their presence would affect the country depended greatly on the way the situation was handled.

“Now, the cost to support these refugees is borne by the government and the people. But what the government can do is to get the refugees who are already here to work in service centres or in plantations.

“All they need is some basic education and some caring from the companies or the government itself.

“It would be good for the country as doing this is cheaper than bringing in more migrant workers,” he told FMT.

Santiago urged Putrajaya and other Asean governments to intervene in the conflict in Myanmar that had seen its minority Rohingya community “butchered and brutalised”.

Malaysia has the ability to do this as it is a member of both Asean and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim, in a Dewan Rakyat written reply Thursday, stated that the number of refugees in Malaysia had been on the increase since 2010.

He said as of September this year, the total number of refugees here was 150,226. Of this number, 143,669 are from Myanmar.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia President Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, in response to this, said the number would increase if Putrajaya continued its “deafening silence” over the “genocide” in Myanmar, which is also a member of Asean.

“In order to survive, the Rohingya have to flee the country. So if the Malaysian Government refuses to intervene, more will come to seek refuge here,” he said when contacted by FMT.

At the very least, Zafar said, it should look into the wellbeing of the refugees who are here.

Otherwise, they would be left with no choice but to resort to illegal employment and that could cause the government more problems, he added.

“Find a way to help them assimilate with the community. Give them the jobs that Malaysians do not want instead of bringing in more foreign workers.

“Because the refugees are not here by choice. They have nowhere else to go and they can’t stay in their own country,” he said.