Saturday, January 23, 2010

Burmese Refugee in Malaysia


Burmese refugees and asylum seekers started running to Malaysia more than 20 years ago and the number has increased since then. Currently, there are more than 60,000 Burmese refugees registered with UNHCR but thousands more are unregistered.

Between 2002 to 2008, more than 4,800 Burmese were whipped for immigration offences.

In 2008, 812 Burmese children were detained in immigration detention centres.

In May 2009, two Burmese asylum seekers died at the Juru detention centre due to Leptospirosis, a disease linked to contamination of food or water. In August/September 2009, another six Burmese died due to suspected Leptospirosis.

In Malaysia, many refugees live in poverty. They have difficulties finding jobs due to their illegal status. Even when they can find jobs, they are usually underpaid and vulnerable to abuse from unscrupulous employers.

Refugee children do not have access to public schools. As such, generations of uneducated refugees are being raised here in Malaysia.

As refugees remain unrecognized by the Malaysian Government, they live in constant fear of raids, arrest and detention. Conditions in detention centres face continuous problems of overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, malnourishment and ill-treatment of detainees. Once detained, they never know when they will be released. Many have died in detention centres.

They cannot go back to Burma for fear of their lives, and yet everyday they live in fear here.

1 October 2009

Report by U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

In Washington, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations issued a report—based on a year-long review—saying illegal Burmese migrants have been deported from Malaysia, handed to human traffickers, and forced to work in brothels, fishing boats, and restaurants in Thailand if they didn’t have enough money to buy their own release.

According to the Senate committee report, "a few thousand" Burmese migrants in recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand. "Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants," the report said.

Malaysia’s prime minister says his government will investigate a blistering report by a U.S. Senate panel that says thousands of Burmese migrants have been handed over to human traffickers and sent to work in the Thai sex industry.

"We will take appropriate action," Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. "We do not want Malaysia to be used as a point for human trafficking ... but we need to know more facts."

(extract from

As Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol, UNHCR is the main actor of protection and assistance for asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia. UNHCR conducts all activities related to the reception, registration, documentation and status determination of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Malaysia is a largely urban country, with 60 per cent of the population living in cities. Life for a refugee in Kuala Lumpur is challenging. Refugees cannot work legally and most live in fear of detention, despite having received a refugee card from UNHCR.

The address of UNHCR

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Address: 570, Jalan Bukit Petaling, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Telephone: (603) 2141 1322
Fax: (603) 2141 1780

1369 Burmese New Year Festival" 2007 in Kuala Lumpur

Related websites/blog

4. Refugee in Malaysia,
5. Malaysia To Probe Abuse Claims,
6. Is Malaysia an example?, by Prof. Kanbawza Win, Prof. Kanbawza Win is Dean of the Students of the AEIOU Programme, Chiangmai University Thailand and an Adjunct Professor of the School of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, of British Columbia, Canada)

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