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‘Don’t dump asylum seekers in Sabah’

 | May 25, 2011

Sabah Barisan Nasional ally, LDP, wants to know how the state will benefit from the refugee swap with Australia.

SANDAKAN: Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president VK Liew has warned that Sabah must not become home to the 800-odd asylum seekers stranded in Australia.

He said the party would register a strong protest if the mainly Indonesian “refugees” are sent to Sabah under a Malaysia-Australia Refugee Agreement.

Liew said that Sabah already has too many immigrants and Sabahans would not tolerate more of them.

However, he added that the state could reconsider if the refugees are skilled or qualified.

“It is important for us to balance things out that may work to our benefit and advantage.”

Liew, who is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Sandakan MP, was responding to a question as to where the new 800 refugees would be re-settled once they arrive in Malaysia.

While welcoming a swap whereby Australia would take 4,000 refugees currently in Malaysia over four years, how this deal would benefit Sabah remains uncertain.

“Mathematically speaking, we will have 3,200 fewer refugees under this deal, but are these the refugees that would be sent to Australia to be re-settled there from Sabah or just part of the number or even none?

“How is this deal going to benefit Sabah?” asked Liew.

Violation of rights

Australia sees the recent agreement with Malaysia as an important first step in dealing with asylum seekers in what is a regional problem.

On May 7, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Australia is close to signing a bilateral agreement which would see 800 people who tried to get to Australia by boat taken immediately to Malaysia to have their claims processed in Malaysia by the United Nations.

In return, Australia has agreed to take 4,000 genuine refugees who have had their claims assessed in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s refugee deal with Australia, however, has drawn harsh criticism from local leaders and pressure groups here, who claim the agreement violates the asylum seekers’ right not to be forcibly deported.

Human rights group Lawyers for Liberty also voiced fears that Australia’s bid to “outsource” its international obligation to protect refugees would subject the asylum seekers to mistreatment in Malaysia’s reputedly ill-kept refugee camps.

The group added that as a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, Australia had no right to forcibly deport the asylum seekers to Malaysia, which has been dubbed “one of the world’s worst places for refugees to be in”.

“Let there be no doubt: Malaysia has a horrendous track record – infamous for its ill and brutal treatment of refugees and other undocumented migrants,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

It added that as Malaysia has not ratified the UN refugee convention and does not have a comprehensive framework for the protection of refugees, the transfer deal with Australia would likely violate the asylum seekers’ rights “not to be (forcibly) deported, right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Also read:

Refugee swap: NGOs keep the heat on

Australia expects to ink asylum deal in weeks


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