PETALING JAYA: Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines must come up with a regional solution to the refugee problem, says Amnesty International Malaysia director Shamini Darshni.
“Each country has different laws when it comes to people on the move arriving in our countries. If a regional solution is not going to be discussed, there is not going to be a solution,” she said of the hesitation by Malaysia and Indonesia to accept inbound refugees last May.
Speaking to reporters here after the launch of Amnesty International Malaysia’s Report for 2015/2016, Shamini noted that the Philippines was very quick to react last year, but Malaysia and Indonesia had not followed suit in their readiness to accept inbound refugees.
“They (the Philippines) said: Okay, we’re going to take in a bunch of people. Malaysia and Indonesia, however, wavered.
“We did not see them (the governments) wanting to help people arriving on our shores until there was a report mentioning international criticism.
“So what we are saying now is that you need to have a regional discussion to come up with a regional solution.”
Shamini was referring to the refugee crisis that occurred in the middle of 2015 when some 8,000 people fled persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh. They sought refuge in Southeast Asian countries.
The Philippines had extended humanitarian assistance to the refugees, shortly followed by Malaysia and Indonesia, which initially refused to provide shelter.
Commenting on the current issue of migrant workers, Shamini said the Malaysian government had to ensure adherence to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its dealings with them.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that you have a right to live, work and seek safety in another country if your own country cannot do that.
“What we need to do as governments on the receiving end is to make sure we follow these principles when we work with any migrant workers, whether it’s the possible impending 1.5 million workers or the ones we have at the moment.”