Saturday, September 10, 2016

Asean lacks coordination on refugees

Kota Kinabalu: There is lack of coordination among Asean member states as well as lack of political will among leaders to bring about a permanent solution on the problem of refugees.

This is also compounded by marriages and liaisons between locals and refugees.

"There is also the problem of Asean countries which have not ratified the Refugee Convention.

"There are issues of governance in the countries from where refugees flee. UN perspective on Advocacy on Refugees is not working in Asean – it only works with countries providing ODA or Official Development Assistance such as the European Union, United States of America, Japan and Australia.

"There are also problems in the enforcement of refugee rights," said MJ Paluga if the University of Philippines Mindanao with AM Raqragio.

"He said the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) 2013 and Refugees, Article 2 stipulates: "Every person is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth herein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, disability or other status."

Malaysia does not even accord to some of its citizens that are not of Malay ethnicity, Muslim creed, as many permanent residents holding red ICs, as well as Article 22: the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

There is no freedom of religion for Muslims other than Islam of the Sunni Shafie School in Malaysia or risk being labelled as deviant or unbelievers," he said.

"Under Article 35 on the right to development, even Malaysians in constituencies won by opposition do not get to enjoy public funding for development in some cases.

"What can we learn from ground realities? Institutional and international humanitarian-concern framings regarding the so-called 'refugee problem' should periodically calibrate itself to emerging phenomena from the ground so that our Asean Community response is more inclusive," said Paluga.

In 2015, Malaysia was estimated to have a labour work force of 14 million out of a population of 31 million citizens.

A reason for not adopting the UN Refugees charter was that it would be too expensive to accord them the treatment they deserve by law.

However, Paluga said there is also an Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) 2013 and Malaysia is a member.

He was speaking at a session at the 10th International Malaysian Studies Conference at UMS.

"According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) roundtable on Nov 6, 2015, the Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC) cited the Ministry of Human Resource estimate of undocumented migrants at around two million to the Ministry of Home Affairs estimate of undocumented migrants at around four million.

"The Ministry of Human Resource as of June 2015, estimated that there were 2,245,513 documented foreign workers.

"Unpublished figures from the Enforcement Division of the Immigration Department on the 2011 amnesty exercise registered 1,303,126 undocumented migrants.

"Hence, there are no definite authoritative figures to show the facts. In Sabah, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) report on illegal migrants is still pending for action.

Paluga noted that Myanmar does not want to have any discussion on refugees. The country once told former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir to take all the Muslims if he was so concerned about them.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, as the Asean Chair in 2015, stated that the long term solution would be for Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis domestically," said Dagmar Oberlies in a presentation 'Human Rights Based Approaches – A Critical Review'.