Dialog bersama NGO berkenaan golongan pelarian, pencari suaka (Malay/English)

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Sometimes 20, Sometimes 30 - It’s normal for refugees to live in small flats with up to 30 people, who may all be replaced the next week. For survival, they live wherever job opportunities take them - Photograph: UNHCR

[ENGLISH VERSION BELOW] Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia (Suhakam) mengakui bahawa kepentingan kesihatan awam merupakan prioriti utama pada ketika ini.

Berdasarkan trend penularan Covid-19 yang agak sekata dan terkawal buat masa ini, menunjukkan keberkesanan tindakan pihak kerajaan serta usaha gigih barisan hadapan.

Suhakam menekankan bahawa mana-mana krisis mempunyai kesan terhadap akses kepada hak asasi manusia, terutamanya golongan rentan dan komuniti yang terpinggir. Pelaksanaan perintah kawalan pergerakan sejak 18 Mac yang telah dilanjutkan sebanyak dua kali dan akan berlanjutan sehingga 28 April 2020, memburukkan lagi kesan negatif Covid-19 terhadap komuniti.

Baru-baru ini, Suhakam telah mengadakan mesyuarat secara maya bersama 24 agensi, badan bukan kerajaan dan organisasi masyarakat sivil (NGO/CSO) bagi mengenalpasti keperluan serta cabaran yang dihadapi oleh golongan pelarian dan pencari suaka. Hasil dari perbincangan dan syor-syor yang dikemukakan, Suhakam berharap dapat membantu memperhalusi pendekatan dalam usaha mengurang dan meminimakan kesan krisis di seluruh negara.

Berdasarkan perbincangan, terdapat keperluan yang tinggi untuk bekalan makanan, sokongan kewangan dan keselamatan dari segi akses kepada rumah perlindungan, peluang pekerjaan dan tiada risiko ditangkap berdasarkan status mereka. Isu-isu yang dihadapi oleh golongan pelarian dan pencari suaka seperti berikut perlu diberikan perhatian sewajarnya:

  • Golongan pelarian dan pencari suaka terus berasa ketakutan terhadap risiko akan ditangkap dan ketakmampuan untuk menanggung bayaran perubatan. Ini mengakibatkan kelewatan untuk mereka tampil menjalani pemeriksaan kesihatan, atau saringan Covid-19 oleh mereka yang mempunyai kaitan dengan kluster Tabligh. Meskipun kerajaan memberikan jaminan bahawa tiada tangkapan yang akan dibuat semasa krisis pandemik Covid-19, terdapat laporan bahawa tangkapan dan penahanan terhadap pelarian dan pencari suaka masih berlaku, terutamanya terhadap mereka yang masih belum mempunyai dokumen UNHCR. Terdapat juga kebimbangan tentang kemungkinan akan ditangkap pada masa hadapan, setelah krisis ini berakhir
  • Memandangkan ketiadaan hak perundangan untuk bekerja di Malaysia, kebanyakan golongan pelarian terpaksa bekerja dalam sektor tidak formal sebagai mata pencarian, di mana sekiranya ada, perlindungan pekerjaan adalah terhad. Walau apa pun keperluan pelaksanaan perintah kawalan pergerakan, ia meninggalkan kesan kehilangan punca pendapatan kepada mereka yang bekerja dalam sektor tidak formal selama tempoh masa perintah ini dilaksanakan. Ketiadaan bantuan kewangan kepada golongan ini di bawah pakej rangsangan yang diumumkan oleh kerajaan, meningkatkan lagi kerentanan golongan ini. Sebagai contoh, terdapat ramai daripada mereka dilaporkan tidak mampu untuk membayar bil utiliti dan sewa, yang meningkatkan risiko akan diusir oleh pemilik rumah
  • Kebanyakan pelarian dan pencari suaka menerima bantuan dan pertolongan dari pelbagai NGO dan CSO dalam tempoh krisis ini. Walau bagaimanapun, syarat-syarat yang dikenakan di bawah perintah kawalan pergerakan, seperti keperluan bekerjasama dengan Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat dalam usaha mengagihkan bantuan, telah menghadkan akses dan kemampuan mereka untuk berfungsi secara efektif. Tambahan pula, pelaksanaan sekatan jalanraya yang ketat mengakibatkan kegagalan sebahagian bantuan sampai kepada mereka yang amat terdesak memerlukan bekalan makanan, keperluan harian dan dana
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Sebagai langkah ke hadapan, Suhakam mengesyorkan agar:

  • Mesej tentang usaha kerajaan disampaikan dengan jelas, serta diterjemah kepada beberapa bahasa dan disebarluaskan
  • Agensi penguatkuasaan dan semua pegawai yang melaksanakan perintah kawalan pergerakan perlu memahami bahawa tiada tangkapan boleh dikenakan atas mereka yang tampil untuk saringan Covid-19, walau apapun status mereka
  • Peruntukan perlu disediakan untuk membantu dan menyediakan keperluan asas bagi golongan pelarian dan pencari suaka. Ini termasuk dana untuk bayaran rumah perlindungan sementara, untuk mereka yang diusir keluar oleh pemilik rumah
  • Proses pendaftaran NGO/CSO di bawah Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat haruslah dipermudahkan, dan bantuan khidmat kemanusiaan perlu dikategorikan sebagai perkhidmatan penting di bawah perintah kawalan pergerakan bagi membolehkan penyelarasan dan pengagihan bantuan yang lebih efektif kepada mereka yang memerlukannya

Selaras dengan Perkara 23 Konvensyen Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu mengenai Status Pelarian 1951, Suhakam berharap agar kerajaan dapat mengkaji semula polisi sedia ada, agar mengambil kira golongan rentan, terutamanya pelarian dan pencari suaka dalam semua pelan tindakan Covid-19.

Suhakam menyokong sepenuhnya jaminan perdana menteri seperti yang dijelaskan di dalam ucapan beliau pada 27 Mac bahawa tiada sesiapa akan ditinggalkan, dan ini seharusnya turut merangkumi golongan rentan.

English version

Virtual meeting with NGOS on refugees and asylum seekers

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) accepts that public health priority is paramount and attributes the relatively even-paced spread of the Covid-19 disease and controlled situation thus far as an indication of the effectiveness of the Government’s response and hard work of all frontliners.

Suhakam wishes to reiterate that crisis situations always have a profound impact on people’s access to human rights, more so upon vulnerable and marginalised communities. Implementation of the movement control order since 18 March, which had been extended twice and runs until 28 April 2020, has further compounded the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on these communities.

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Suhakam recently convened a virtual meeting with 24 agencies, non-governmental and civil society organisations (NGO and CSOs) to assess the needs and challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers. Based on discussion points and recommendations raised, Suhakam hopes to facilitate the development of a more refined approach in efforts to alleviate and minimise the crisis’ impacts nationwide.

Based on discussions, there was a high need for food supply, financial support and security in terms of access to shelter, job opportunities and safety from being arrested due to their status. Issues faced by the refugee and asylum seeker communities are sufficiently concerning to warrant attention, as below:

  • There was a persistent fear of arrest and an inability to afford healthcare fees amongst the refugee and asylum seekers community. This resulted in delays in coming forward for medical examination or, with respect to those related to the Tabligh cluster, to obtain Covid-19 screening tests. Despite the government’s assurances that there would be no arrests or detention during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, it was reported that arrests of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly persons of concern who have yet to receive their UNHCR documentation, did indeed still occur. There were also fears that coming forward during this period, may lead to the possibility of being arrested, once the crisis is over
  • Given the lack of legal right to work in Malaysia, most refugees tend to find a living by working within the informal sectors, which provides limited employment protection, if any. Notwithstanding the necessity of implementing the movement control order, it has left those working in the informal sector with no source of income for as long as it is in place. The absence of any financial relief or assistance for this community, under the stimulus package announced by the government, had further amplified their vulnerability. For instance, it was reported that many of them are unable to pay their utility bills and rental, and are hence facing a risk of eviction by landlords
  • During the crisis, most refugees and asylum seekers, received aid and assistance from various NGOs and CSOs. However, conditions imposed under the movement control order such as working through the Welfare Department for aid distribution, had drastically limited the NGO and CSOs’ access and ability to provide aid effectively. In addition, due to the strict roadblocks enforced, some aid meant for distribution had failed to reach those in dire need of food, daily sundries and funds
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As a way forward, Suhakam recommends that:

  • messages on the government’s efforts should be clearly communicated, to be translated into several languages and widely disseminated
  • enforcement agencies and all officers implementing the movement control order, must understand that no arrests should be made for anyone coming forward for Covid-19 testing, regardless of circumstance or status
  • allocations should be made to assist and provide for the basic needs of the refugee and asylum seeker community. These include funds for temporary shelter for those facing eviction by landlords
  • the registration process for NGOs and CSOs with the Welfare Department to be less bureaucratic, and humanitarian aid services should be categorised as essential services under the movement control order to allow for better coordination and distribution of aid to those in need

In line with Article 23 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Suhakam hopes that the government would review its current policies to include vulnerable communities, particularly refugees and asylum seekers in their Covid-19 response plan.

Suhakam strongly supports the prime minister’s pledge, as articulated in the 27 March speech, that no one will be left behind; this should encompass vulnerable communities as well.

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