PETALING JAYA, 18 June 2009: The Malaysian government should stop denying that asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and undocumented migrants have been treated poorly, said Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).
Suaram coordinator Temme Lee described the government’s ongoing denial as “disturbing”.
“The government should…start taking steps toward improving the human rights protection of this group,” Lee said in a statement today.
She said asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in Malaysia have continued to be subjected to the cycle of arrest, detention and deportation despite condemnation and protests from civil society groups.
Suaram today released the Malaysian findings of the World Refugee Survey, for which it is a research partner. The survey has similar findings on human trafficking as the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, released earlier, that blacklisted Malaysia and 16 other countries for not doing enough to combat human trafficking.
Lee said the World Refugee Survey this year again listed Malaysia as one of the “worst places for refugees”, together with Thailand, Gaza, Egypt, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa.
It said Malaysia scored “F”s for refoulement/physical protection, detention/access to courts, and right to earn a living. The country scored a “D” for freedom of movement and residence.
The survey also mentioned cases of abuse by Rela officers and trafficking of refugees and asylum seekers by Malaysian immigration officials throughout 2008.
“Malaysian immigration officials continued to sell deportees to gangs that operate along the Malaysian-Thailand border…At least 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers were among the deportees in 2008,” the survey found.
Lee said Suaram urged all law enforcement agencies, particularly the Immigration Department and Rela, to stop arresting holders of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documents.
Suaram also called on the government to grant UNHCR full access to asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in detention so that the UN refugee agency could verify their claims and assist them.
Lee said the government should ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol to demonstrate its commitment to refugee protection.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has refuted the findings of the US State Department and called for an explanation from the US Embassy. His deputy Datuk Abu Seman Yusop described the US’s decision in blacklisting Malaysia as “unfair” and “unjustifiable”.