Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NGOs query Immigration round-up of refugees

Suresh Kashuerin | October 14, 2015

Those picked up, including women and children, were herded into lorries and taken away.

GEORGE TOWN: A coalition of migrant rights NGOs in Penang has condemned the rounding up of some 80 people, including 60 refugees and asylum seekers, in an operation by the Immigration Department in Bagan Dalam on Tuesday night.

The Coalition, Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign (PSHTC), said those picked up, including women and children, were herded into lorries and taken away.

“It is unclear how mounting major raids on already vulnerable families and individuals, including detaining and incarcerating young children, represents our common humanity,” said PSHTC in a statement.

“The 150,000-plus registered refugees and asylum seekers already here have long had no rights (not even the right to work), and are horribly vulnerable to arrest, extortion, detention, deportation or worse,” the Coalition added.

PSHTC said Rohingya and other Burmese Muslims have found a home in Bagan Dalam, albeit unprotected, and have been living there for some 20 years or more. It said families live together, interspersed with the local community, and some of the children were born in Malaysia. “These are the Rohingya who fled the horrors taking place in the Arakan state of Myanmar, or others from Myanmar fleeing intolerable abuses, persecution and threats to their lives.”

PSHTC said these refugees have survived a journey that for many included time in the horror camps of Thailand and Malaysia, but were now registered with the UNHCR as refugees.

“However, many have not got a UNHCR Refugee Card yet, since the process of verification is a long one,” said PSHTC. “While waiting for the card, these people are described as ‘asylum seekers’, but for the police, immigration and other authorities, this so often seems to count for nothing.”

PSHTC said refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers desperately need Malaysia’s support, and the government needs to respect, enshrine and enforce basic rights, including their right to work. These women, men and children need to be given some protection against the unscrupulous (including human traffickers), the Coalition added.

“Instead, we stand aside while thousands in our community live precarious lives, always at the mercy of the authorities and others, never secure, always on the edge of harassment and extortion, and in fear of arrest, detention and deportation,” said the Coalition.

“Clearly, if we are to give substance to our prime minister’s promise to the world, we need to transform our thinking, transform our reactions and transform our responses so that we really do embrace every woman, man and child who is here as fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters and part of the global family. We cannot simply ‘pass on by’.”