Egalitaria - Rohingya refugee rights
AT A "Solidarity March" two weekends ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak protested the atrocities taking place in Myanmar, condemning Myanmar for what he considered as the "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya community.
What is happening in Myanmar is without a doubt disturbing, and requires international attention. But Najib needs to turn his eye to the refugee conditions on home ground in Malaysia.
First, Malaysia sits on the United Nations Security Council and could have used this position to act on its concerns, but through the appropriate channels.
If it wants to elevate the seriousness of the developments at an international level, the government could table an emergency motion on what it considers to be the genocide of the Rohingyas in Myanmar at the UN Security Council.
Second, Malaysia has not yet signed or ratified the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which means the government does not formally or legally recognise refugees in the country.
This includes Rohingyas, who are therefore not recognised as refugees. The implications of this are, namely, that the government can act according to its whims and fancies whenever it is convenient for it to appear humanitarian.
Second, it does not have to comply with any sort of rules in its treatment of refugees. The convention would require member states to provide certain protections, such as the right to work, the right not to be expelled, and the right to freedom of religion,
The only document refugees in Malaysia have is a UNHCR card (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), issued upon interviews and certification by the UNHCR itself. Even so, the Malaysian authorities have reportedly thrown these cards away.
An expose took place in March 2015 of syndicates selling fake UNHCR cards for as cheap as RM50 a card. A documentary by Al-Jazeera in late 2014 also exposed allegations of abuse of refugees – refugees were seen chained and handcuffed, and said they had been beaten and exploited and left little food and water – as well as claims of corruption within the UNHCR.
The UNHCR has responded by issuing new cards with increased security features to combat identity fraud and counterfeiting.
All of these incidents underscore more importantly that there is a need for the government to work closely with the UNHCR and other agencies offering refugee care and services to come out with clear policies and regulations on managing the refugee issue in a more systematic way.
Since Najib has taken a keen interest in human rights – in his rally speech he stated that one of the articles in the Asean charter was for Asean to uphold human rights – he should also consider signing and ratifying a host of other international human rights conventions.
This would include the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, two of which are considered to be the most basic of human rights conventions for any modern democracy.
Third, recall that it was only in May last year that there were an estimated 6,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees who were stranded at sea because authorities turned them away. (The government did change its position subsequently to allow the boat people to land in Malaysia.)
The then deputy home minister had said: "We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here", after 1,000 refugees landed on the shores of Langkawi. Recall that after being on the boat for more than three months, their boats' captains and crew abandoned them, leaving about 10 passengers to die.
Finally, there are already Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, many of whom are being detained under horrible conditions in detention centres, some of which have been mentioned above.
Why has the government not turned a kind eye to treat our existing refugees with the love our leaders now profess? Why the sudden attention now, when they have been languishing for years?
As of the end of October 2016, there are more than 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, of which some 54,856 are Rohingyas. Why focus solely on one community's conditions?
Other refugees in Malaysia include those from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
One should not discriminate based on country of origin, the level of care and attention provided.
All have experienced persecution and suffering and have been forced to leave their countries because of serious discrimination or armed conflict, and are in search of a better future.
The prime minister should sign and ratify the UN Refugee Convention, table an emergency motion at the UN Security Council to debate this crisis, and finally turn his eyes to the horrid conditions the Rohingya and other refugees have to suffer on home soil itself.
WHO ARE ROHINGYA IN MALAYSIA ?
( More than 3,000 Bengali Muslims impersonating as Rohingyas to obtain UNHCR card )
ALOR STAR: More than 3,000 Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh are said to have posed as Rohingya refugees to obtain United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards in the past 10 years.
According to Kedah Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM) chairman Mohd Noor Abu Bakar, members of the ethnic group which lives in the neighbouring province of Chittagong in Bangladesh at the border with Myanmar have similar facial and complexion features as well as an almost similar language with ethnic Rohingyas to obtain the UNHCR card.
For the purpose (of getting the card), he claimed that the Bengali Muslims were also trained to use the Rohingya accent and were prepared for questions by UNHCR interviewers.
They claimed they came from Maungdaw, a Rohingya area in Rakhine, Myanmar, he said.
The UNHCR card is said to be good to seek employment in Malaysia which is considered a gold mine for its stable policies and ample employment opportunities.
"They entered Rakhine and later joined Rohingyas to take boats to Malaysia. They are not refugees," he said in an interview with Bernama here today.
Meanwhile, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) International Studies Centre senior lecturer Associate Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said if the allegation was true, the Rohingya Association should take immediate action to assist UNHCR identify the real Rohingyas.
"They (Rohingya Association) should sit down with UNHCR on the matter as they know the Rohingya better," he said, adding that this was because the policy of Malaysia in accepting refugees was not a matter which could be abused as it was based on humanitarian grounds.
"Otherwise Malaysia should not open its doors to refugees taking advantage of the situation. We do not want them to bring their country's problems here," he added. — Bernama
ROHINGYA FINDS GOOD LEADERS IN MALAYSIA FOR THEIR FUTURE
KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has condemned the violence against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, and said he was ready to face any eventualities with open support for the ethnic group.
The Prime Minister said he was aware of a statement by the Myanmar government yesterday that it would regard Najib as interfering with its internal affairs should he attend the Rohingya solidarity assembly tomorrow.
Najib, who is also Umno president, however, said he would not be moved by such a threat and that this was the party and the government's stand.
"I'd like to tell them (Myanmar government) that this is not a question of interfering with their affairs. But this is about defending humanity.
"I will not be moved even an inch, because I will be present at the assembly not just as Najib, but representing the three million Umno members, and this is our stand!" he said during his winding-up speech at the Umno General Assembly, here, today.
"Furthermore, how can they say that this is not our concern when what they are doing will only force the Rohingyas out of the country, and into Malaysia as well," he added.
Najib pointed out that presently, there were already over 56,000 Rohingyas holding the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards registered in the country.
He said the violent killings and raping of the Rohingyas is not something that is acceptable in the Asean community.
"Asean cannot tolerate any uncivilised and inhumane behaviours, and we urge them to change their attitude.
"This is Umno's stand. Whatever happens after this, let it happen. We are firm with our stand," he said, to the roar of some 3,000 delegates present.
Source : http://www.thesundaily.my/