Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Gov't urged to halt crackdown on refugees

Gov't urged to halt crackdown on refugees
Aug 6, 07 3:14pm

Campaigners representing ethnic Burmese people today appealed on the Malaysian government to halt a crackdown on illegal immigrants which it said has also targeted political refugees.

The Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organisation said that close to 1,000 illegal immigrants were picked up by authorities in the past week alone, including 200 Rohingyans from the military-ruled state.

The Rohingyans are an ethnic Muslim minority in Burma (now renamed Myanmar)who have been denied citizenship status by the junta, forcing them to seek refugee status elsewhere.

"We came to this country because we have nowhere to go and although we were promised a chance in Malaysia, it looks like we are never going to get it," the group's leader, Zafar Ahmad said in a statement.

He said most of those picked up were not registered with the Malaysian government but were official asylum seekers given status by the UN Rights Council for International Refugees.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

'Give us a chance'

Kuala Lumpur last month launched a major operation to round up an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants coming in from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and Philippines.

Close to 10,000 refugees have been picked up to date and the ongoing operation aims to haul in at least half the reported figures by October, reports said.

"In one week alone, almost 200 refugees of Myanmar origin had been picked up by the authorities and some of them were treated extremely bad at the detention camps," said Zafar.

"I believe the government should treat us better and give us a chance to live in this country," he added.

Malaysia is not a party to international refugee conventions, and illegal immigrants are often detained and later deported to their home country.


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