The Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign has asked for reassurance that boats have indeed been located and supported, and that we are not idly talking while those on board the boats are left to die.
Can the federal government tell us how many boats have been located, how many people supported with urgent provisions and medicinal supplies, and how many boats have been escorted ready to land?
To reassure us all that while we are talking about where to house them, we are not letting the women, men and children on the boats drift quietly to die a horrible death.
In response to the question of ‘where to house the new arrivals? Penang? Kedah?’ etc
It is very sad that the fate of the women, men and children on the boat continues to hang by a very precarious thread at a time when our government is playing even more political football with their lives. We are very sure that the federal authorities can work out satisfactorily with state governments and other national and international agencies how best to welcome those needing refuge off the boats: that is really not the issue.
The hugely pressing issue is: where are the boats? We have had no statement from the Prime Minister or anyone else about how many boats have been located, how many supported with urgent food and medicinal supplies, and how many have been escorted to safe haven ready to land.
Can we please have such an update, to reassure us that boats have indeed been located and supported, and that we are not idly talking while the women, men and children on the boats are being left to die?
In response to the discovery of graves on the Malaysian side of the Thai-Malaysia border
We congratulate the authorities for finding the mass graves in the northern part of Malaysia. It is good that at last some action is being taken.
The sad thing is that we have known about the existence of camps and holding houses in Malaysia for a long time. Refugees and migrants who have survived such places, and/or who have had relatives survive or disappear into such places, have long been voicing their concerns and offering information, if we had been listening.
Reports of many national, regional and international organisations and media have flagged the existence of such camps and other places of detention used by criminal syndicates, including two major Reuters features in 2014. But what did we do?
Now at least we understand the horrors perpetrated by the human traffickers, people smugglers, and the wider criminal syndicates and their associates. Now at least we have the opportunity to put an end to this horror, and identify and arrest the criminals.
We need to do this by working together regionally and internationally, which our government has stated it will do. Dealing with the persecution inflicted by the Myanmar government on its citizens and minorities is one big part of this.
Nationally, within Malaysia, we need to properly resource our efforts to combat human trafficking and people smuggling, by setting up dedicated teams to track human trafficking – teams with enough numbers and financial resources to really make a difference.
We need to develop partnerships with all and any group working in the area of human trafficking/people smuggling.
We need to make the connection between human trafficking/people smuggling and modern day slavery: people who buy cheap labour and/or people for all sorts of exploitation are a huge part of the problem and need to be identified and charged.
Most of all, we need to better protect and work with migrant and refugee communities in Malaysia who have extensive first-hand experience of the trafficking and the people smuggling and the slavery, but whom up to now we seem to have marginalised and abandoned.
The women, men and children on the boats will also have lots of information; they too are victims/survivors of crime. Protecting and including the communities that live in Malaysia but who remain unprotected and highly vulnerable, like refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, is an essential part of the solution.
Signing the UN Convention on Refugees and related protocols would be good start; taking strong action against employers and agents who abuse their workers would be another. Providing an effective right to redress for all groups is basic to their and our protection.
It will take a huge effort: we know how well organised the criminal syndicates are and how deep their tentacles will have spread across agencies and governments. But if we commit ourselves, and commit the right resources and determination, we can do it.