Friday, June 21, 2019

M'sia needs clear laws on rights of refugees, asylum seekers (Star)

M'sia needs clear laws on rights of refugees, asylum seekers
Friday, 21 Jun 2019 12:53 PM MYT

PETALING JAYA: As Malaysia only recognises documented immigrants, a clear law that grants rights to refugees and asylum seekers must be enacted, says Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

Madpet founder Charles Hector said as Malaysia only recognised legal and documented foreigners with a valid visa, refugees and asylum seekers who fall into the category of "illegal immigrants" need a clear law that grants recognition to them.

"This recognition should start from the time they seek asylum up to the point they are accorded asylum seeker or refugee status, and thereafter until they are re-settled in another country or alternatively allowed to remain in Malaysia temporarily or permanently.

"Such a law would also determine whether they do have a right to work, carry on small business or earn a living, whilst their applications are being processed and thereafter.

"As it stands, such asylum seekers and refugees at present do not have a right to work in Malaysia," he said.

He added that enacting a law that defined the rights of refugees and asylum seekers was important, as Malaysia had entered into extradition agreements with many countries.

Hector said those agreements where strict adherence to request for extradition might see Malaysia violating the principle of non-refoulement when they send back such refugees and asylum seekers to the very countries they fled from to escape persecution.

He lamented the deportation of Thai national Praphan Pipithnamporn who was accused by the Thai government of sedition for calling for a republic on social media.

Hector added that with a clear law, it would, for example, be made explicitly clear whether the government considered controversial preacher Zakir Naik a refugee or an asylum seeker.

He said if Malaysia considered Zakir a refugee or an asylum seeker, then it was bound to protect him and not send him back to India.

"The question will be whether Zakir, is considered an asylum seeker or refugee by Malaysia," he said.

Hector said Malaysia's declaration that Zakir was an asylum seeker would merely be a political position, unless he was also recognised by UNHCR or under Malaysian law.

He added that then there should be no extradition of persons recognised as asylum seekers or refugees.

Hector also called on the government to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and other relevant conventions that recognises and protects the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

He also urged the government to review obligations under existing extradition treaties or other agreements to ensure that they did not violate Malaysia’s obligations under the principle of non-refoulement. - Star, 21/6/2019

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