Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Malaysia steps up action against Burmese migrants (DVB)

Malaysia steps up action against Burmese migrants

Apr 8, 2008 (DVB)–Malaysian authorities have stepped up arrests of illegal Burmese migrants in Kuala Lumpur and other cities, forcing many to go into hiding in jungle areas.

Refugees with UNHCR documentation and migrant workers with legal permits have also been arrested in the crackdown.

One Burmese migrant said raids were not being conducted by immigration officials but by groups of volunteers who have been given powers to arrest illegal migrants by the government.

“If they take the illegal migrants to the police or immigration they get a reward of 80 ringgit [US $25],” the migrant said.

“They arrested about 500 migrants in three raids last week, and another 500 more recently.”

He said he was not sure how many had been arrested in total, but that he believed most were Chin or Burman.

Another migrant said Malaysian employers were now refusing to take on Burmese migrants due to the increasing number of arrests, leaving the migrants without a source of income and forcing them into hiding.

“We have to go and hide in the jungle, which causes a lot of problems for us – we can only sleep late at night, there are lots of mosquitoes and there is no proper food,” she said.

“Sometimes we have to stay hidden for about two or three days.” Ko Kyaw Kyaw Win of the Arakan Refugee Affairs Committee said the issue had been raised by the United Nations and other NGOs, but they were unable to reach an agreement with the Malaysian authorities.

“The UN said they did not come to any agreement with Malaysian immigration on this, so they could not provide any protection to the illegal Burmese migrants,” Kyaw Kyaw Win said.

There are currently around 150,000 illegal Burmese migrants in Malaysia, most of whom are Arakanese or Chin.

Reporting by Htet Yarzar

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