PETALING JAYA: Human rights groups claim the outflow of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar can only be controlled through greater regional cooperation.
Responding to a statement yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, several human rights groups claimed a durable solution to the refugee crisis can only come about if there was a greater sharing of responsibilities by countries near Myanmar.
Zahid, who is also Home Minister, had said the Malaysian government would not arbitrarily issue the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) card to Rohingya refugees as it wanted to better manage their influx into the country.
“Our priority is our people and their welfare. It is not that we are not being humanitarian. I think the international community should show concern for the plight of the Rohingyas,” Zahid had said, but added that Malaysia did not wish to be a receiving country for Rohingya refugees whenever there were problems in Myanmar.
Alarmed by the statement, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshini said it was important for the Malaysian government to develop common asylum practices that met with international standards of protection for refugees.
“Malaysia is a transit country for refugees and asylum seekers.
“We need to ensure Rohingya refugees are able to have protection and fully enjoy their human rights.
“The Rohingya crisis is a part of the larger global refugee crisis.
“Thus, genuine and strong commitments from Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations would go a long way towards refugee protection and assistance.”
Klang MP Charles Santiago meanwhile urged the government to ramp up its efforts to assist UNHCR to document refugees in the country.
“The government should assist the agency as the process to document these refugees is taking too long.”
Santiago also said Zahid’s statement defeated the whole purpose of helping the refugees survive in the country.
“The Malaysian government should be proactive and consistent in their efforts,” he said.
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom) president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani lamented the measures taken against refugees in the country and said, “If the government decides not to give UNHCR cards, how will the 60,000 refugees be able to survive?
“They need the card for them to at least be acknowledged as refugees and not mistaken for illegals.”
“Aside from that, they need jobs and medical assistance,” he said, stating the refugees would be unable to receive aid without proper documentation from the UNHCR.
Vice-president for the Humanitarian Aid for the Rohingya Community, Badariah Abdul Hamid, said although they supported the government’s decision to be cautious, it did not fully address the refugee issues here in Malaysia.
“The government is concerned with national security first and we accept that. However, that does not resolve the issue of their rights while they are here.
“It is not the babies dying in Rakhine that we should only be concerned about, it’s the babies dying here,” she said.
UNHCR, when contacted by FMT, said the agency had registered 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, as of July 2017.