On refugees, Malaysian authorities should “learn from the world’s religious communities”

June 24, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Malaysia, June 24, 2016: Increasingly, immigration is taking centre stage in Malaysia as refugees come ashore in the Southeast Asian nation.

In light of this, the international community “should address the problem of migrants in a more human way, and learn from the world’s religious communities to give shelter to those fleeing war,” said Rev Harman Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM).

On Tuesday, Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister Mohamed Nur Jazlan slammed the UN refugee agency after United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Malaysia, Richard Towle, said that Malaysia should accept to be a “country of destination” and not just a “transit country” for some 150,000 refugees currently present in its territory.

In strong words, he blasted the UN body, warning it against “blackmailing” his country. “The UNHCR is publicly pressuring Malaysia to take responsibility and accept these people. We have accommodated the refugees based on the UN agency’s request,” Nur Jazlan said.

He pointed out that it is totally irresponsible for a UN official to make such a statement. Towle spoke at a press conference after launching the new upgraded UNHCR card with added security features and card verification application system, with the aim of giving refugees under its protection “legal standing” in Malaysia.

The project was funded by Australia, and UNHCR hoped that the improved security features in the card could be the basis for the Malaysian government to allow refugees to seek jobs and education in the country. Currently, they cannot obtain either.

The Deputy Home Minister also turned his guns on Australia, saying that it should host refugees if they were so interested in supporting them.

“The Australians are trying to push the project here by giving money. Since they support the cause, why don’t they take in these people? It would be a bigger contribution,” he said.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and is not bound by international laws to provide refuge, asylum, jobs and education to refugees.

Rev Shastri slammed Malaysia’s failure to sign the convention.

Out of more than 150,000 asylum seekers in Malaysia, almost 140,000 are from Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims. The others come from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

On 9 June, Towle called on Malaysia to release Rohingya refugees held in detention centres as soon as possible, urging the various governments involved to take action.

– asianews

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