Thursday, February 08, 2024

Rohingya, Palestinians,... > Does Anwar Ibrahim's Malaysia recognize refugees/asylum seekers? A law is needed about how Malaysia deals with them?

Does Malaysia or PM Anwar Ibrahim's government no longer consider Rohingya and others from Myanmar in Malaysia as REFUGEES or Asylum Seekers?

In August 2017, armed attacks, massive scale violence, and serious human rights violations forced thousands of Rohingya to flee their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. ... The United Nations has described the Rohingya as “the most persecuted minority in the world.”

Conflict triggered by the military takeover in Myanmar in February 2021 has resulted in recurring, protracted and new displacement, and complicated the search for solutions. Thousands more refugees have fled into neighbouring countries and over 1.95 million people are displaced within Myanmar.

So, why are the Rohingya in Malaysian Immigration Detention Centres, just like other migrants found illegally in Malaysia?

Reasonably, there must be a distinction between migrants that broken the Malaysian laws of immigration, and those who are reasonably legitimate REFUGEES or ASYLUM SEEKERS. In fact, even victims of Human Trafficking should not be placed in Immigration Detention Centres.

Yes, recently there was a 'break-out' from a Immigration Detention Centre and most were Rohingya...and we remember another incident in 2022..

On 1/2/2024, a total of 131 undocumented migrants, of which 115 were Rohingya fled from the Temporary Immigration Depot in Bidor, whereby one of them later was reported to have died in a road accident. The Bidor depot houses about 297 Rohingya detainees (NST)

We recall a similar incident in 20 April 2022, when 528, mostly Rohingya, broke out of the temporary immigration detention centre in Sungai Bakap, Penang. 6 Rohingya asylum-seekers, including two children, were killed while trying to cross a highway after fleeing the detention centre. 

PALESTINIANS from Gaza or Palestine likewise would be considered not REFUGEES or ASYLUM SEEKERS - but simply criminals to be placed in Malaysia's Immigration Detention Centre..

THE PROBLEM - Malaysian laws only recognize foreigners in Malaysia with proper travel documentation or stay documentation, and all other foreigners are CRIMINALS - law breakers, who will be detained in Immigration Detention places until they are sent back to their country of origin... HENCE, there is need for legal recognition of REFUGEES and ASYLUM SEEKERS. - The best solution is a LAW, which will also provide for a vetting process that will determine who is a legitimate REFUGEE and/or ASYLUM SEEKER, and also their treatment when in Malaysia. Will Malaysia provide for special housing for these refugees/asylum seekers or will they be able to wonder free in Malaysia whilst they wait to be re-settled in a 3rd country, or return to their own country when situation improves. 

Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol. There is currently no legislative or administrative framework for dealing with refugees. This challenging protection environment is situated within a migration context of some 3 million migrants, 1 million of whom are considered illegal. By law, refugees are not distinguished from undocumented migrants. They are therefore vulnerable to arrest for immigration offences, and may be subject to detention, prosecution,whipping and deportation.
As the UN and UNHCR no longer provides adequate finances to house refugees, maybe Malaysia should collaborate with other nation states that care so that the financial burden can be shared. [At one time, the UNHCR provided funds needed to house, feed and clothe these refugees until they are re-settled in a 3rd country, and so the country that accepts refugees within its borders do not have to bear all responsibility and consequences > the WORLD shares the BURDEN because it acknowledges refugee/asylum seeker rights including the right not to be returned to the country they are running away from to avoid persecution

Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection. 

Bidor Immigration depot escape: Six of 130 detainees recaptured, say authorities

Bidor Immigration depot escape: Six of 130 detainees recaptured, say authorities
Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh shows pictures of pictures of the impact of the riot on the detention cell to reporters during a special media briefing in Putrajaya February 2, 2024. — Bernama pic

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 2 — Six of the 130 undocumented migrants who escaped from the Temporary Immigration Depot in Bidor last night have been recaptured, authorities said.

The latest two arrests were confirmed by Tapah district police chief Superintendent Mohd Naim Asnawi this evening.

Meanwhile, Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh said four of those recaptured as of 4pm underwent the verification process.

“We are continuing our efforts with the cooperation of all security agencies, including the police and the General Operations Force (PGA) to track down the remaining escapees, with a strength of 387 members from various agencies,” he said during a special media briefing here today.

Last night, a total of 131 undocumented migrants fled from the male block of the Temporary Immigration Depot in Bidor, with one of them reported to have died in a road accident.

Of the total who fled, 115 were Rohingya detainees, followed by 15 Myanmar nationals and one from Bangladesh.

Following the incident, 435 other undocumented migrants remain in the depot.

The Immigration Department has relocated all of them to six other detention depots, including in Machap, Melaka; Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan; Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur; Kemayan, Pahang; and Langkap, Perak.

“The Bidor depot housed 556 detainees, of which 297 were Rohingya detainees followed by those from Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh and others.

“The other detainees did not try to escape; they remained in the depot and we moved all of them immediately to six immigration depots located elsewhere,” Ruslin said. — Bernama- Malay Mail, 2/2/2024

Immigration Dept redistributing Rohingya detainees to prevent breakouts

Immigration Dept redistributing Rohingya detainees to prevent breakouts
Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh said the number of Rohingya detainees in a particular block would be reduced and they would also be mixed with detainees from countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh. — Bernama pic

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 2 — The Immigration Department is redistributing the 2,675 Rohingya detainees held at 12 depots throughout the country to prevent them from breaking out of these centres.

Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh said the number of Rohingya detainees in a particular block would be reduced and they would also be mixed with detainees from countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh.

He said this was among the preliminary measures and immediate standard operating procedure implemented in the wake of last night’s incident where 131 undocumented migrants escaped from the men’s block of the Temporary Immigration Depot in Bidor.

“This is to reduce the chances of their (Rohingya detainees) acting aggressively. When gathered together in large numbers, they tend to act aggressively,” he told a news conference here today.

One of the escapees was subsequently killed in a road accident on the North-South Highway.

According to Ruslin, the escapees comprised 115 Rohingya and 15 Myanmar detainees and one Bangladeshi.

He said the detainees had acted aggressively by thrashing the cell gates, throwing stones at the 14 immigration personnel on duty and breaking through the perimeter fencing.

He said two of the 28 RELA personnel on duty were slightly injured after being assaulted by the detainees.

“They fled via a back road and cut through oil palm plantations to get to the nearby highway.

“We believe they are still in the vicinity of the depot and might be moving in small groups to avoid detection by the authorities,” he said.

Ruslin said the immigration department did not rule out the possibility the escapees had planned the breakout for a long time.

He said the cause of the incident was being investigated. — Bernama, Malay Mail, 2/2/2024


Allow Rohingya refugees to work so they can contribute to Malaysian economy, Putrajaya urged

General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. u00e2u20acu201d Picture Hari Anggaran
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. — Picture Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The protests and breakout at the temporary immigration detention centre in Sungai Bakap, Penang, last week have renewed calls for a legal framework and policy to deal with refugees, especially Rohingyas. 

Six Rohingya asylum-seekers, including two children, were killed while trying to cross a highway after fleeing the detention centre on April 20. Police said they were among the 528 detainees who broke out after a “riot”. As of April 28, almost all have been found with 61 still at large.

Activists have called for an investigation into the reasons for the breakout, claiming reports of poor living conditions for detainees exacerbated by overcrowding. The government has sought to ease the overcrowding by repurposing former National Service camps as immigration detention centres, but Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioners reported seeing too many people in the space they were held in.

As of 2020, the government reported there were 15,626 inmates in immigration depots, which were only supposed to house 12,530. A total of 208 deaths were reported in the depots between 2018 and Feb 15, 2022. Most of the deaths were caused by diseases, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, dengue, diabetes and Covid-19. Among the dangers of overcrowding in detention centres is the spread of diseases.

Malaysian Advisory Group on Myanmar chair Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar told Bernama the Sungai Bakap incident highlighted the need to have a comprehensive legal framework to deal with the decades-old issue of refugees.

“Malaysia has a lot of refugees from different countries, but there is no refugee policy. It’s not as simple and straightforward (that) by declaring we do not recognise anybody without documents, they are all illegals,” he said.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), there are some 181,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, most of whom are Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Malaysia does not officially recognise refugees as it is not party to the 1951 Convention on Refugees. As such, the prevailing treatment of asylum-seekers is to detain them as undocumented migrants, and many are arrested and detained for years. Those who have received their UNHCR cards are usually left alone until they can be resettled in a third country.

Former Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph told Bernama he had visited some of the Sungai Bakap detainees when they were held in the immigration detention depot in Langkawi.

“They were hoping they could be let out but no. After over two years, they are still detained without a clear policy direction on what to do with them,” he said.

The prolonged detention is by design rather than accident, as Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin recently said that the government did it to serve as a warning to other migrants against entering Malaysia illegally.

Faced with criticism by human rights agencies at home and abroad for the breakout and treatment of the Rohingya detainees, Hamzah also lashed out, telling the Rohingyas to go back to Myanmar if they are unhappy with their treatment in Malaysia.

Some Malaysians agree with Hamzah’s points, saying those criticising Malaysia for the breakout should consider how kind the country has been to refugees by being willing to provide them with food and shelter. Several questioned why the refugees, especially the Rohingyas, could not be sent back.  

No way home

The answer to the question is complicated. Refugees are those fleeing persecution, violence, torture and death in their home country. 

In general, countries cannot simply send refugees or asylum-seekers back without violating international law in the process. Under international law, once they have managed to enter a country, refugees cannot be sent home where they will be in danger of losing their life or freedom.

Called the principle of non-refoulement, it is recognised as “customary international law, which is binding for all states, regardless of whether or not they have signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees”, the UNHCR told Bernama. 

On top of it, Rohingya refugees are different from other refugees. 

Malaysia has a long history of playing host to refugees and in the past, the country has been very welcoming to refugees of the Vietnam War and Bosnian War, to mention a few. However, Rohingya refugees are also stateless people, unless the international community can convince Myanmar – who call the Rohingyas illegal immigrants although their families have lived in Myanmar for hundreds of years – to recognise and accept them as citizens.

“(The Rohingyas) can’t be deported to Myanmar because Myanmar doesn’t recognise them. And they can’t be sent back to Cox’s Bazaar (a refugee camp in Bangladesh) because they are not nationals of Bangladesh. There’s no such thing as deporting someone to a refugee camp,” said Joseph.

This means the Rohingyas, unlike the Vietnamese, the Bosnians and others who returned to their home country once there was peace, are likely to be in Malaysia for the long haul. Based on social media posts and rhetoric from some officials, the resentment among many Malaysians seems to stem from this and from the fact that the number of Rohingya refugees is growing as their country remains troubled.

Malaysia has sought to address the Rohingya refugee crisis at the regional and international levels. 

“The ideal thing is to have an agreement among Southeast Asian nations on who takes who and how to do verification with the UNHCR. All of those should be formalised,” said Edmund Bon, the Malaysian representative to Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

He added that efforts to find a resolution among Asean member states on the refugee crisis have not succeeded. 

As such, experts said the best way to solve the Rohingya issue in Malaysia is to find a third country for them to resettle in. But demand is high while slots are few.

The other choice is more practical but is also likely to be less popular: integration.  


The government has complained it costs money to feed and shelter refugees and asylum-seekers. Many Malaysians resent the amount of funds being used to house and feed the refugees, thinking the money can be better utilised to help citizens recover from the pandemic-related economic downturn. Refugees and asylum-seekers do not want to remain in detention and instead want to earn a living.

So why not create a policy that recognises the refugees’ presence in this country so that they can be integrated into Malaysian society and allowed to work formally, thus filling in the jobs that locals do not want to do, activists and politicians suggest.

Rather than hiring foreign workers to do non-skilled work such as cleaning ditches and working in wet markets, activists said it would be better to get Rohingya refugees to do such work.

“Malaysia is so desperate for workers. And here you have a ready crowd, who are here, you know them, the (holders) of UNHCR cards are known to the government. You can easily utilise them as economic functionaries also while they are waiting for their country to get better,” said Joseph.

For years, the government has been considering allowing refugees to work, beginning with a pilot project that saw refugees being employed in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in 2016. Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan recently said they were doing an in-depth study to avoid being inundated by refugees seeking work in Malaysia.

Some Malaysians fear allowing refugees to work means they will be taking jobs from locals or they will be getting all the benefits without paying taxes. Activists said such fears were unfounded.

For one thing, the jobs the refugees would be taking up would be low-paid jobs that locals do not want. Another is that workers who make too little to pay taxes still contribute to the economy.

“The fact that you work even though you don’t pay taxes, it contributes to the generation of economic activities,” said Syed Hamid. — Bernama - Malay Mail, 29/4/2022

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