Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Suhakam: M’sia needs proper refugee system in place

Khaw Lake Tee says a proper state-governed system is needed to manage inbound refugees and prevent human rights abuses.

KUALA LUMPUR: The country needs a proper system to govern the registration of inbound refugees and to prevent human rights abuses from occurring, said Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) vice-chairman Khaw Lake Tee.

“The non-recognition of refugees by Malaysia has made the community more marginalised,” noted Khaw in her speech at a roundtable by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) here today.

She said that Suhakam had received complaints about cases where UNHCR cardholders were detained by immigration authorities because of the lack of documentation.

“Related to detention were allegations of abuse of power by police and immigration officers, as well as the unsatisfactory conditions of immigration deportation centres where refugees are held,” she said.

“In such instances, only UNHCR can verify the UNHCR cards and make requests for their release,” she pointed out, adding that Suhakam had also received reports from complainants that they did not receive any feedback after they had made their applications to the UNHCR.

Khaw noted that the lack of a proper system to govern the arrest, detention and deportation of refugees had given rise to the question of whether refugees yet to be deported should still be detained by the immigration authorities.

She commented that the UNHCR itself had proposed that the Malaysian government consider registering refugees under its own state machinery.

Khaw nevertheless commended the Malaysian government for agreeing to consider implementing alternatives to detention (ATD) for children in immigration detention, citing a working group comprising relevant government agencies, NGOs and Suhakam that was established in 2014 to implement this project.

“(This) would certainly accord protection to children, especially unaccompanied children and children seeking asylum. Although it is slow in its implementation, such a commitment from the government should be applauded. The Commission hopes that ATD will be expanded to all refugees and asylum seekers in the future.”

Khaw said that Suhakam was informed last year by the immigration department that refugees were arrested on the grounds of law enforcement, a “responsibility towards the Malaysian community”, and that most of the illegal migrants had already been infected with communicable diseases before entering the country.