Abuse of Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees

Human rights group Suaram has made a shocking claim that four Sri Lankan embassy officials were at the Pekan Nanas Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), Johor, yesterday to force Sri Lankan refugees detained there to sign repatriation agreements.

It was reported in the Malaysian Mirror (21 October) that the refugees were beaten and kicked by these officials when they refused to sign the repatriation agreements. The group assaulted was part of the 108 UNHCR registered refugees detained at Pekan Nanas IDC. The number includes 10 women – with one in her eighth month of pregnancy – and 10 children.

One Sri Lankan woman refugee went on hunger-strike on 13 October and has since been joined by nine more women and five men, to protest their detentions despite being refugees recognised by the  UNHCR. On 8 September, 122 Sri Lankans were arrested at a hotel in Johor: 108 of them were sent to Pekan Nanas IDC and 14 asylum seekers were sent to the Simpang Renggam IDC. According to Suaram, the 122 Sri Lankans, who were staying in Kuala Lumpur, were promised jobs in Johor Baru by an agent for payment of fees.
(Apart from the Johor incident, another 207 UNHCR-recognised Sri Lankan refugees are being held at the KLIA Immigration Depot. Suhakam officers, we learn, have been denied access to investigate a complaint regarding the detention of these asylum seekers and refugees by the Immigration Department).
Aliran condemns what is seen as collusion between the Sri Lankan diplomatic authorities and the Malaysian Government in committing such a shameless contravention of the principle of non-refoulement of refugees and asylum seekers. This clearly goes against the basic tenets of human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights laws forming customary international law. These should be observed by all countries irrespective of whether they have ratified the relevant UN conventions.
Aliran notes that Malaysia in spite of being a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) regrettably has not seen fit to honour many of the provisions contained in both these international human rights treatises, especially in relation to migrants.

READ MORE:  Nalini Elumalai, fearless human rights defender

We demand:

  • the immediate release of all UNHCR-recognised refugees and that they be given into the UN Refugee Agency’s protection;
  • the exemption from arrest of UNHCR cardholders;
  • the recognition of UNHCR documentation by all security enforcement bodies, including Rela;
  • that UNHCR be given free access as a matter of right to undocumented asylum seekers to facilitate their registration with UNHCR;
  • Suhakam personnel be similarly allowed free access to asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants in detention to investigate complaints of human rights abuse during the arrest and detention of these unfortunate migrants.

Aliran Executive Committee
21 October 2009

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.