Monday 26 September 2016

Rohingyas in Malaysia – the undocumented people

Source aseantoday, 25 Sept


September 25, 2016

In Malaysia, 50,000 Rohingyas live a life of no way forward and no way back. Rohingyas continue to be denied citizenship rights in Myanmar. Thus, they have little means or reason to return. However, for the large majority living in Malaysia, life is also one of uncertainly and anxiety.


The Rohingya people are a group of Muslim minority from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Since 1982, Myanmar has denied them citizenship and deprived them of their basic rights. This resulted in an increasing number of Rohingyas leaving Myanmar to make a life elsewhere. Malaysia is a popular choice given the large Muslim population, relatively high standard of living and developed economy.

One third of the 150,000 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia are Rohingyas. Although registration provides Rohingyas with an identification card and meagre benefits, it does not allow holders the right to work, health care or education. Registration is also not always viable for those living outside of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, where the office is located. Many do not make the journey, as they fear arrest or extortion as well as the difficulty of travel, communication and documentation. Advocacy groups claim the number of registered Rohingyas is in fact a small portion of a much larger unregistered body currently living in Malaysia.

Registered or not, a lack of protection and policy has left Rohingyas in a state of limbo in Malaysia. A report by the UNHCR describes Malaysia as a "country of asylum only in the loose sense of the term." Generally, Malaysia only provides basic rights to asylum seekers and does not provide resettlement. Rather, international governmental institutions, like UNHCR, transfer refugees to other countries for permanent resettlement.

While Rohingyas are often no longer at risk for deportation, they are subject to arrest, detention and extortion. They are also formally restricted from employment opportunities, and their children are unable to attend national schools.

Refugee or Illegal Migrant?

Malaysia is neither a signatory to the UN Convention of Refugees, nor does it have any intention of becoming so. Refugees or asylum seekers are treated the same as illegal migrants, who are accused of coming to Malaysia for economic opportunities. Refugees are restricted from integrating into Malaysian society or accessing fundamental services.

The lack of work opportunities forces many to take riskier forms of unofficial employment, putting them at the mercy of their employers. Rohingyas can be subject to late or non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions and immigration raids. Without an income and with limited access to public services, fundamental rights like education, health and accommodation become unobtainable.

Many counties with the means to provide permanent resettlement are either handling other refugee populations or are unwilling to do so. Australia is generally opposed to taking in refugees. Much of Europe is overwhelmed with refugee populations, and North America is not conducive for foreigners or migrants. If Malaysia is waiting for the UNHCR to find countries accepting of the Rohingyas, they may be waiting a while.

Can Malaysia Handle This?

Therefore, what can be done? Refugee International calls on the Malaysian government to recognise the Rohingyas' asylum status, issue work permits, provide alternatives to detention and allow access to education and health care. While these seem like obvious and reasonable demands, the implementation is by no means simple.

Many Malaysians fear the provision of 'benefits' will encourage illegal migrants to seek asylum or continue to encourage irregular arrivals. Many countries possess similar fears, including the Australian Liberal Party's government, who argued for a 'strong' refugee policy.

Balancing the local labour's demands and the right of employment for asylum seekers will always be a difficult task. This is especially true in a country where wages, particularly in unskilled occupations, are fairly low. However, Malaysia already utilises an enormous amount of foreign labour in its construction, manufacturing and domestic services sectors. In 2015, the World Bank reported that Malaysia had 2.1 million legal foreign workers in the country. Most of these came from Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and the Philippines.

Thus, finding a way to utilise Rohingyas without encouraging illegal migration is the best way forward. On multiple occasions, the Malaysian Government has proposed this exact strategy, but plans have never come to fruition. Part of overcoming these challenges will be establishing a system to assess the status of asylum seekers.

Something needs to be done sooner rather than later. Rohingya children are being born in Malaysia to Malaysian-born Rohingya mothers. These second and third generation Malaysian-born Rohingyas are effectively stateless, as they are not eligible for residency or citizenship in Malaysia or Myanmar. This is strikingly similar to the plight of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Today, many third or fourth generation, second-country born Palestinians do not have permanent residency or citizenship in their country of birth, even if the original refugees were in fact economic migrants.

Citizenship and identity are two issues which will have to be further grappled with in the future. With every new Malaysian-born generation of Rohingyas, it becomes increasingly clear that they are no longer just 'Rohingyas' or Myanmarese.

Ultimately, this situation is a chance for Malaysia to prove its maturity as a nation and live up to its reputation as a tolerant country. Malaysia is in a prime position to take leadership of this issue and enhance its global credentials.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Annan meets with Rohingya communities in Myanmar IDP camps

Source vidalatinasd, 7 Sept

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan (C) arrives at Thet Kel Pyin Muslim IDP (Internally displaced person) camp during his visit to Rakhine State near the capital of Sittwe, western Myanmar, 07 September 2016. Kofi Annan, who chairs the advisory commission of Rakhine State, which was formed on 23 August 2016, is on a six day visit to Myanmar to aid in the resolution of religious and ethnic conflict in the state. EPA/NYUNT WIN
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan (C) arrives at Thet Kel Pyin Muslim IDP (Internally displaced person) camp during his visit to Rakhine State near the capital of Sittwe, western Myanmar, 07 September 2016. Kofi Annan, who chairs the advisory commission of Rakhine State, which was formed on 23 August 2016, is on a six day visit to Myanmar to aid in the resolution of religious and ethnic conflict in the state. EPA/NYUNT WIN 

Sittwe, Myanmar, Sep 7 (efe_epa). — Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan on Wednesday visited local communities in Myanmar's western Rakhine State as part of his sixday trip to investigate the human rights situation facing the Rohingya Muslim minority, an epa journalist reports.

After yesterday flying into Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, Annan today went to the Min Gan and Thet Kel Pyin IDP (internally displaced person) camps, which are home to about 3,000 and 6,000 Rohingyas, respectively.

In both camps he briefly met with local leaders and refugee representatives, who told the former UN chief about their living situation and difficulties.

Hundreds of people in the camps came out to greet and see Annan and his entourage.

He also visited the Aung Mingalar Muslim quarter of Sittwe, where he met with local residents and community leaders.

The Ghanaian diplomat received a chilly welcome in Sittwe yesterday, when protesters came onto the streets denouncing his visit and held signs with such messages as "No outsiders' intervention in our Arakanese internal state issue" and "No to foreigners biased (take) on our Rakhine State affairs."

Annan, as chair of the advisory commission examining solutions to the ethnic and religious conflicts in Rakhine, is scheduled to meet with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw and military leader Min Aung Hlaing on Friday, and hold a press conference in Yangon before he leaves the country on Saturday, the Myanmar Times newspaper reported.

The Rohingya, a Muslim people from Rakhine State, have faced discrimination and violence for years and make up the majority of that state's 120,000 IDPs, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thursday 1 September 2016

Myanmar: Investigate death and alleged rape of Rohingya woman

Index: ASA 16/4723/2016 30 August 2016   
Myanmar: Investigate death and alleged rape of Rohingya woman   

The Myanmar authorities must ensure a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the death and alleged rape of a Rohingya woman. The alleged refusal by the police to investigate the case, and to bring those responsible to justice is a violation of their human rights obligations and sends the message that crimes against Rohingya, including  unlawful deaths, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, will continue to go unpunished.   
On the morning of 18 August 2016, Raysuana, a Rohingya woman in her mid-twenties, was found unconscious in a ditch close to a military compound, named locally as Bandula Hall, in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State. According to local sources, Raysuana's body was found by military personnel, however, instead of taking her directly to a hospital, they called leaders from nearby Thet Kay Pyin village and asked them to come and pick her up. The village leaders then took her to Thet Kay Pyin clinic, where clinic attendants discovered Raysuana was bleeding from her vagina and mouth, and had bruises and swelling on her back. She died later that evening, at around 7:45pm.   

Local police, called to the clinic, reportedly refused to open an investigation saying that it would be "too complicated" given that she was found close to a military compound. Instead, they ordered villagers to bury her body, which they did the following day. According to credible sources no post-mortem examination was carried out.  

Amnesty International calls on the Myanmar authorities to immediately initiate an investigation into the death and alleged rape of Raysuana, ensuring that it is independent, impartial and effective. The results should be made public. All those suspected of being responsible must be brought to justice before independent, civilian courts, in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness and which do not impose the death penalty. Should any of the suspected perpetrators be members of the Myanmar security forces, they should be immediately suspended from duties.    

Amnesty International also calls on the authorities to secure the crime scene and ensure the safety of any witnesses and those reporting information about the incident. Amnesty International further calls on the authorities to launch an inquiry to into allegations that the police refused to open an investigation into this case; and if this is the case, to institute disciplinary or other measures against those responsible. The authorities must also provide effective remedies and reparations to Raysuana's family.   

Thet Kay Pyin village is located in an area of Sittwe which is home to tens of thousands of people, mainly Rohingya, who remain displaced four years after violence swept Rakhine State in 2012. The Rohingya and other Muslims living there face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, and are effectively segregated from neighbouring communities. Because of these restrictions accessing medical care, in particular life-saving medical treatment, can be very difficult.  

Raysuana's case take place in a wider context of human rights violations against the Rohingya, including unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest at the hands of the security forces. Independent and impartial investigations into such allegations are rare and suspected perpetrators are seldom held to account.   

The case also highlights wider concerns about rape and other crimes of sexual violence against ethnic minority women, which have been well-documented by women's organizations in Myanmar. In its 2016 Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) expressed concern about the "wide spread impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of such violence" and called on the Myanmar government to "expedite the investigation and prosecution of crimes of sexual violence perpetrated by the military and armed groups".  

Ongoing impunity which allows human rights violations to go unpunished only serves to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. The authorities must ensure perpetrators are not shielded from accountability and ensure that victims and their relatives lodging complaints and seeking redress do not face reprisals.

Malaysia: Putrajaya urged to allow Rohingya to work

Source freemalaysiatoday, 1 Sept

Charles Santiago says education and jobs for refugees will reduce the need for foreign workers.

charlesPETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the government to take concrete action to help Rohingya refugees in the country improve their lives.

Speaking to FMT, he said the dire situation faced by the Rohingya and other refugees in the country was a long way from being resolved and that no amount of meetings and conferences would help.

He was reacting to a Reuters article which highlighted the plight of the refugees, who are in limbo because they don't have formal refugee status.

He said Putrajaya should at least ratify the United Nation's Convention on Refugees quickly.
"The missing ingredient in this crisis is the lack of political will on the part of relevant governments in the region, including the Malaysian government," he added.

He said there was a lot that Putrajaya could do to make the lives of the refugees easier, and one of the most important steps it should take was to give them opportunities for employment and education.

Refugee employment, he said, could help reduce the number of migrant workers in the country, and not only in dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs.

"If we provide them with education opportunities, we could then employ them to fill vacancies which require skilled work," he said, adding that refugees were known to excel in countries where they had been settled.

Employment and education for the refugees would not only reduce the need for Malaysia to look outside for its human resource needs, but also ensure that the refugees would become self-sustaining, he added.

Santiago said there was often a fear that refugees would not want to leave the country if the government gave them employment and education opportunities.

However, he said, those who had such a fear must recognise that the refugees had nowhere else to go or any resources to enable them to go elsewhere.

"If they cannot work, they will definitely be stuck here," he said. "But if they work, they could become assets."

There are some 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, many of whom are Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to escape poverty, discrimination and persecution.