Violence against refugees continues

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Aliran
would like to bring to public attention the continuing violence
perpetrated against migrants and refugees in this country. It is
amazing that the public at large is still ignorant of all this human
rights violation happening right under our noses. Moreover, most of
the Malaysian public remain ignorant of who refugees are or why they
are here.


 

The
cause of this ignorance is probably brought about by limited
information and the negative views promoted by the mainstream news
dailies and broadcast media, which is still under the complete
control of the ruling Barisan Nasional government.
 

In
our view, negative publicity that incites violence against any group
of human beings by any party is unjust and by its nature, criminal,
especially when the victims of such violence are defenceless and have
not harmed anyone.

What
have the on-going violent crackdowns by Rela gained for Malaysian
society? It has obviously done nothing for Malaysia except to give us
a bad image internationally as a cruel and heartless nation.

Have
refugees from other countries undergoing internal political upheaval
or conflict stopped coming here or has there been a reduction in
numbers? No. It is in fact difficult to keep accurate count of these
numbers. Even the UN refugee agency in Malaysia cannot be completely
certain that statistics do not change everyday.

Refugee
communities have repeatedly sent out press releases to
non-governmental organisations to appeal for a stop to the arrest and
detention of their community members, including pregnant women,
mothers with babies, small children and minors. They have often
described the cruel and inhuman treatment they experience at the
hands of Rela and the abuse perpetrated in immigration detention
centres. This abuse ranges from being beaten up, sexually abused,
raped and financially extorted, to the whipping of minors.

Such
acts, if committed by any other Malaysian citizen, would be seen as
criminal. Yet when they are committed by those in authority – through
the so-called ‘security forces’ like Rela – against helpless
migrants and refugees, they very often go unnoticed and unpunished.
The current Home Affairs Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, has not publicly
taken a stand on this issue. Instead, the raids on these defenceless
refugee communities have been stepped up, affecting even those
officially recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees and who have UNHCR documents to prove their status.

The
issue of refugees is not a new one. It has in fact been an issue for
over 30 years since the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Since then, other
countries in the region have been gripped by turmoil and hardship,
but few Malaysians are aware of the long-standing suffering in these
countries. Do
we think this does not affect us?

The
excuse by the Government that treating refugees humanely is a
‘pull-factor’ for more to arrive on our shores is a fallacy.
Neither ill-treatment nor deportation has served to stop the influx
of migrants, whether documented or undocumented. The fundamental
problem is the lack of a proper corruption- free immigration control
system and clear- cut policies for different categories of migrants.
The non-recognition of refugees and the lack of empathy for their
plight have tarnished our image. The use of Rela only puts migrants
and refugees as well as sections of the Malaysian public in fear
because of the indiscriminate raids often carried out in the middle
of the night.

Rela
seems to be acting with impunity and getting away with acts of
violence against migrants and refugees. This makes Malaysian society
appear inhuman as it appears to overlook such gratuitous violence.

The
recent denial of a two-thirds majority for the BN and the victories
of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in five states have shown us that we
can bring about changes for the betterment of the country, if we want
to.

Similarly,
the rakyat can put pressure for the new Parliament to address
the issue of migrants and refugees more seriously and to come up with
more comprehensive and humane immigration policies, which would
include the recognition of refugees by immigration authorities in
this country.

Aliran
also urges the rakyat to support calls for the federal
government to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and other
international human rights conventions. The public is also reminded
that Malaysia is an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council and
should live up to this role in the international community, instead
of embarrassing us by being a notorious perpetrator of human rights
violations.

Aliran
again reiterates its support for calls by other civil society groups,
including the Bar Council and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, for the
abolition of Rela.

 

READ MORE:  Accord more protection to lawyers and public against potential violence around courts

Aliran
Executive Committee.

11
April 2008

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