Friday, February 5, 2010
Refugee ID issued in Malaysia
The video was taken in late 2008. They should be happy now....
There are more than 27000 Chin refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia of which two third of them are not registered by UNHCR office and hiding in jungles and staying separately in urban areas in fear of authority detection and arrest. Since Malaysia is not UN signatory on Refugee Convention, all refugees are arrested as illegal immigrants. To get matter worse, male refugees are caned before they are deported to Thai border. Many women refugees in Malaysia who were arrested and deported to Thai border face serious abuse by human smuggler ring based at the border.
Although UNHCR is the only home refugees can approach for documentation, UNHCR does not register most asylum-seekers which left thousands of Chin asylum-seekers as undocumented aliens in Malaysia. For a person without any kind of document, it is very difficult to approach hospitals and clinics in time of illness.
Home Ministry: Refugees to be given ID
Refugees recognized by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be issued identity cards, according to the Home Ministry.
"The ID would allow them to stay in the country temporarily and avoid arrest by immigrations officers," ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam told Malaysiakini.
It was reported that although the refugees will be issued ID cards, they are not allowed to engage in full time employment.
Mahmood said that the mechanism for the issuance of the ID has not been finalized.
"We are working closely with UNHCR to come out with the best methods in terms of implementation," he added.
UNHCR press officer Yante Ismail said the agency is pleased with the government's move to issue ID for these refugees.
"Proper documentation is essential for their protection," she said.
She said UNHCR is looking forward to further discussions with the Home Ministry to put into place with them a documentation system for refugees.
Gov't moving in right direction
Meanwhile, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said the government is moving towards the right direction with the plan to issue ID cards to refugees.
"We view this as a positive development towards the recognition of the right to seek asylum as enshrined in article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Suaram coordinator Temme Lee in a press release.
Nevertheless, she urged the government to allow refugees access to full time employment and earn a living while they are in Malaysia.
"The more than 75,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently registered with UNHCR is an existing source of labor.
"Instead of importing more migrant workers, the government should first exhaust existing sources of labor in the country," she added.
SUARAM welcomes the announcement by the Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam on the Government’s plans to issue identification cards to refugees recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We view this as a positive development towards the recognition of the right to seek asylum as enshrined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
However, SUARAM notes with disappointment that Mahmood Adam stated that the refugees “cannot work here, but they can do odd jobs” . Government must also allow refugees access to full-time work and earn a living while they remain in the country. The more than 75,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently registered with UNHCR is an existing source of labour. Instead of importing more migrant workers, the Government should first exhaust existing sources of labour in the country.
Our Home Ministry is moving in the right direction, I am sure refugee will be safer now, and not to be afraid of the harassment by RELA or the police. These refugee should be allow to work in Malaysia, given the work permit to them is the next logical step. It is better to give them work than to illegal immigrants seeking for economic prospect in Malaysia. After all Malaysia still need laborers and unskilled workers, and the large pool of resource is available. Control will be easier as identification have been given.
The refugee identification should be given regardless of race, religion, country; as long as they are granted refugee status by UNHCR. It should be based on solely humanitarian ground.
Anyhow, it is good news for the refugee; and good news for the image of Malaysia.