It is very clear, with the tremendous amount of conflict in Syria, with thousands of them fleeing around the world for their lives, we certainly welcome the announcement of our prime minister in accepting 3,000 refugees from Syria over the next three years, but the question arises as to what will be their status in Malaysia? What are the protective mechanisms in place for them? Will they be given preferential treatment like the Bosnian refugees in the 1990s?
This is indeed a political statement, not at all related to humanitarian purposes.
Every other international community is taking on some responsibility in responding to this conflict, therefore Malaysia wants to be part of this effort to show concern about Syria and the Middle East, which is really admirable but there other concerns in the home ground that needs serious attention and action such as issues of the Rohingyas, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Palestinians and Sri Lankan refugees in Malaysia.
These refugees in Malaysia have no protection, they do not have the right to work, the children have no right to education, no right to healthcare, as such they fall prey to human traffickers, 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, perform public relations exercises to look good at the international arena,
We have a problem and we need to look for solutions critically so all refugees are given protection.
Almost all refugees, very especially the Rohingyas, are very clearly fleeing from an oppressive regime where they are being slaughtered as part of ethnic cleansing. Where would they flee? Being Muslims, they would feel safe and protected here in a Muslim country. They are however not protected but rejected in Malaysia.
However, we believe that it would be different for the Syrians, because they are have been welcomed by the Malaysia government, therefore they would certainly be given some kind of preferential treatment along with a special status, as they did for Bosnian refugees.
Recognition , identity and rights of refugees from any counties are fundamental in stopping all forms of gross violations of rights as such, 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 .
And this must be done not just for the Syrian refugees but also for all the refugees in Malaysian , as we believe in equal treatment irrelevant from where they are fleeing from.
The rights framework is absent in this entire process, and thus it is totally rejected as a ‘good’ initiative.
Before any such initiative are made, Malaysia must change the legal framework, ratify the Convention on Refugees and show its commitment to rights protection with humanitarian support for all refugees.
GLORENE A DAS is director, Tenaganita Women’s Force.