Malaysia is currently one of the 47 member states in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and will serve in the council till 2013. The UNHRC was created by the UN General Assembly on 2006 under resolution 60/251 in order to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights for every human being.
The question is whether Malaysia deserves to seat in the respected seat in promoting and protecting human rights? This letter does intend to look into this question whether Malaysia deserves or not by looking at the refugee situation and current state’s policy and implementation in regard to refugees’ survival in Malaysia.
I am, once again disenchanted with the statement made by one of the senior ministers that refugees can’t work because they were covered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is not a matter of welfare.
It’s a matter of right – human right. To work is a right not welfare regardless of nationality, race and status. It is covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Furthermore, the right to work is a fundamental right enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention to which Malaysia is reluctant to ratify it.
Malaysia often promoted its self as a moderate country and committed to promote human rights. While doing that, Malaysia keeps reluctant to ratify many UN conventions and treaties including the Refugee Convention. Non-legally binding commitment is the best way in showing its commitment to promote human rights and helping refugees in the country.
Malaysia committed to provide assistances to refugees based on the humanitarian basis. Does this guarantee that refugees may enjoy their rights? Does this assurance the protection and empowerment of refugees? The statement made by the minister that refugee can’t work has shown that no one is able to make the government accountable to what they have committed to do.
Malaysia is reluctant to be a signatory to the Refugee Convention, and the domestic act has never protected refugees. Malaysian Immigration Act 1959/63 does not even differentiate between refugees and irregular migrants and therefore they can be arrested, detained, deported and caned for up to six strokes. While facing all the threats above, UNHCR’s role in protecting and providing immediate and necessary assistances are limited.
In terms of empowering refugee community and helping in need of immediate assistance refugees, how many refugees are now given allowance by the UNHCR since they are not allowed to work legally in this country? If they are given in cash, how much does UNHCR give them? Is it enough to cover one family (between 3 to 6 family members)?
If a refugee is handicapped, injured because of accident or has a chronic disease, is UNHCR able to provide assistances? If a refugee is not be able to pay for hospitalisation fees (even after 50% discount), is the UNHCR able to look into this and help? If refugess are not allowed to work and UNHCR does not provide them any assistance, how do they survive? Many of refugees in Malaysia I’ve met expressed their difficulty in getting assistance from UNHCR.
The government tends to look at the refugee issues in this country from a security perspective. Issues related to the inflow and daily survival of refugees has escalated beyond humanitarianism.
Government institutions and agencies tend to look them as a threat to the state, and environmental security. My question is how many refugees involved in street crimes, robbery and any other serious crimes? Does the Malaysia statistic able to prove the alarming figures?
By looking their presence in the country as a threat, the war against refugees has long been undertaken. But not in a direct war and proclamation but war through proxy’s issues such as war against people smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism. Even the victims of people smuggling and trafficking to which many of them were genuine refugees – have been charged and criminalised under specific acts.
No right to seek asylum where they were arrested upon arrival. No genuine protection to not be forcibly returned to home country to which they will face serious threat. No right to gain education.
Nothing is given in the form of genuine and fundamental rights to refugees in Malaysia but Malaysia still seat in the UNHRC to so-called promoting and protecting human rights. Does Malaysia deserve to seat in the UNHRC?