Malaysia must change the legal framework, ratify the Convention on Refugees and show its commitment to rights protection with humanitarian support for all refugees.
KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaganita wants the Federal Government to come up with a Rights Framework for all refugees and not just cherry pick for political expediency. It wants the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to take note of this point as well. “The rights framework is absent in this entire process of taking in 3,000 Syrian war refugees, and thus it is totally rejected as a ‘good’ initiative.”
Before any such initiative is made, it added in a statement, Malaysia must change the legal framework, ratify the Convention on Refugees and show its commitment to rights protection with humanitarian support for all refugees.
The NGO has a bundle of questions for Putrajaya on the 3,000 Syrian war refugees which the Federal Government has agreed to take and other questions relating to the thousands of refugees already in the country. “What will be the status of the Syrian war refugees in Malaysia?” asked the NGO. “What are the protective mechanisms in place for them? Will they be given preferential treatment like the Bosnian refugees in 1990’s?”
There are other concerns on the home ground that need serious attention and action such as issues relating to the Rohingya, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Palestinian, and Sri Lankan refugees in Malaysia, said the NGO. “These refugees in Malaysia have no protection, they do not have the right to work, and the children have no right to education, no right to healthcare.”
“They fall prey to human traffickers and they become victims of modern day slavery. It is so crucial to look into these issues before more refugees are brought into Malaysia just to show concern, and perform public relations exercises to look good in the international arena.”
The NGO warned that Malaysia has a serious problem on the refugee front and needs to look for solutions critically so all refugees are given protection. “Almost all refugees, especially the Rohingya are very clearly fleeing from an oppressive regime which is slaughtering them as part of ethnic cleansing.”
“Where would they flee? Being Muslims, they would feel safe and protected in a Muslim country.”
They are however not protected but instead rejected in Malaysia because of prejudice against them, said the NGO. “However, we believe that it would be different for the Syrians, because they are being welcomed by the Malaysian Government. Therefore, they would certainly be given some kind of preferential treatment along with a special status, as for the Bosnian refugees.”
Recognition, identity and rights of refugees from any country are fundamental in stopping all forms of gross violations of rights, said Tenaganita. “The Malaysian Government must make public and clarify the objectives, procedures and policy for the registration of refugees and how will it impact on their continued stay in the country.”
“What will be the new opportunities and benefits for the refugee community; and how will it impact on their resettlement process. If there is any form of registration by the government, it must be to increase the protection of the rights of refugees.”
All this must be done not just for the Syrian refugees, said the NGO, but also for all refugees in Malaysia, “as we believe in equal treatment irrespective of where they are from”.