Press Statement: 18 June 2009
World Refugee Survey 2009: Malaysia is Worst Place for Refugees - Again
SUARAM as a Research Partner for the World Refugee Survey is not surprised that Malaysia has been placed in the list of “Worst Places for Refugees” yet again in the World Refugee Survey 2009 as the Government has not shown improvement of its treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons. Last year, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who was at that time Deputy Prime Minister, denied outright the findings of the 2008 report (Bernama, 20 June 2008).
Other countries that were placed on the list of “Worst Places for Refugees” are South Africa, Gaza, Thailand, Kenya, Egypt and Turkey. Countries that were declared “Best Places for Refugees” are Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
According to the World Refugee Survey 2009, “Malaysian immigration officials continued to sell deportees to gangs that operate along the Malaysia-Thailand border…At least 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers were among the deportees in 2008”. The report also stated that a child refugee was sentenced whipping for immigration violations.
The report also included a “Refugee Rights Report Card” in which Malaysia scored the following grades:
Refoulement/Physical Protection – F
100+ refoulements and severe governmental violence
Detention/Access to Courts - F
More than 200 arbitrarily detained and no access to courts to enforce refugee rights
Freedom of Movement and Residence – D
Harassment and restrictions in policy and practice
Right to Earn a Livelihood - F
Severe restrictions in policy and practice
Asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons continue to be subjected to the cycle of arrest, detention and deportation despite condemnation and protests from civil society groups. Even more disturbing is the ongoing denial by the Government of immigration personnel’s involvement in trafficking of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons, and of the abuses that occur during raids and detention. The Government should stop denying that asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and undocumented migrants have been treated poorly and start taking steps towards improving the human rights protection of this group.
As such, SUARAM seeks the commitment of Members of Parliament to persistently keep the Government accountable in the following:
- UNHCR documents are respected by all law enforcement agencies, particularly Immigration Department and RELA, and to stop arresting holders of these documents
- UNHCR should be given full access to asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons detained in all Immigration Detention Centres and Prisons to verify asylum claims and assist refugees. The Government should cooperate with UNHCR on the release of refugees and UNHCR persons of concern.
- Malaysia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). As such, child and women asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons must not be arrested and detained. In addition, the Government must act on the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which include developing legislation for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees.
- As an immediate and temporary measure while developing legislation for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, the Home Minister should exempt asylum seekers and refugees from Immigration offences by invoking Section 55 of the Immigration Act. This was also in the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
- Ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
For more information, please contact Temme Lee at 03-77843525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.