Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why M'sia refuses to ink refugee pact (Malaysiakini)

Why M'sia refuses to ink refugee pact
Yoges Palanippan
Oct 24, 07 3:24pm

Why Malaysia has not signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and the Convention relating to the Stateless Persons 1961 despite being a United Nations member for more than 50 years?

The answer: Malaysians come first.

According to Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek, refugees will take jobs away from Malaysians.

"Malaysia is an escape door to people from our neighbouring countries like the Philippines, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. And we all know that there are internal problems in these countries.

"Given this, if we open our doors and recognise these people as refugees, we need to give them jobs and it is not possible when our people are also struggling to gain employment," he said.

"We need to think Malaysians first. And this is the main reason why the government is not ready to sign the conventions."

However, he told Parliament today that the government had adopted a policy where refugees are given "temporary shelter" to those who need it.

"As a caring country, we have worked together with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)to refugees who wish to go back to their home countries.

"For those who don't want to, we provide temporary shelter in countries recognised by UNHCR," said Ahmad Shabery.

28,668 refugees in Malaysia

Ahmad Shabery (BN-Kemaman) was responding to a query from M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) who asked the foreign minister to state the number of refugees in Malaysia according to their country of origin and what are the assistance and protection given to them.

"Why are refugees often mistaken for illegal immigrants and put behind bars? Althought the government says that refugees benefit in certain ways in our system, why do we still have refugees who don't have access to legal employment, education and healthcare?" asked Kulasegaran.

Ahmad Shabery that as of May, there were some 28,668 refugees from countries like Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, China, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Burma in Malaysia.

In July, the government launched a major operation to arrest and detain illegal immigrants from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and Philippines.

Some 100,000 refugees were also picked in the exercise leading to several organisations urging the government to stop the crackdown on refugees.

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