Tarnishing of Rohingya in theSundaily news


By Admin: The writter of the below article has no idea that in deed no one utilize own identity in such nature. it is just some group mis-using to tarnish the name ‘Rohingya’.

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Rohingya ransom racket

Posted on 1 September 2014 – 09:22pm


Months after his horrific ordeal, the victim remains scarred and traumatised. SUNPIX

WHILE most Rohingya asylum-seekers in Malaysia are bona fide, some have taken to crime, including kidnapping for ransom. At times, the targets are their own Myanmar countrymen, as CHARLES RAMENDRAN found out after an exclusive interview with one of the victims.

KUALA LUMPUR: When Myanmar refugee Hung Za (not his real name) stepped out for lunch on Aug 20, little did he know that his life would later literally be hanging by a rope.

The lean and small-built foreigner was snatched by a group of kidnappers, comprising his own countrymen.

Relating the incident to theSun, the 26-year-old United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) status holder, who arrived here a decade ago and speaks fluent Bahasa Malaysia, was heading to a restaurant in Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin at about 1pm when two men grabbed him and pushed him into a car.

"There were two others, the driver and another passenger in the car. I was stunned but I struggled to escape. Then I felt a strong electric shock running through my whole body. I tried to shout for help but my voice froze. They were using a stun gun and used it over and over again until I turned numb. Then they tied my hands, blindfolded me and drove around for hours while punching and kicking me repeatedly. As they spoke in our Myanmar language, I knew they were Rohingyas," said the soft-spoken Myanmar, who is a Christian and lay leader of a Myanmar church in Pudu.

After nightfall, the men met another accomplice. Hung Za was moved into another car and taken to a wooden house where his blindfold was removed and he was beaten up again.

He was then bundled into a third car and taken to another location where his ordeal got worse. He was led into a dimly-lit room and this was where Hung Za felt he was going to die.

"I could barely walk and my face was badly swollen. I believe it was a factory and the kidnappers probably worked there as they could access the place. I was shocked when I saw another two Myanmar men who were blindfolded and had their limbs bound. They were also badly beaten and bleeding. I was taken into a room where they kicked me to the ground and pushed a face towel into my mouth until I felt it lodging in my throat. Then one of them put a noose around my neck.
He flung the other end of the rope over a beam in the ceiling and pulled on it very hard. My body was tugged upright. I was choking and I thought it was the end. Then he eased the rope and I fell to the ground. He repeated this many times over the next few hours. They were high on drugs and they never slept a wink throughout. They looked scary and moved around like zombies," said Hung Za, who works in a restaurant.

As the torture continued, an assailant called the victim’s cousin, also a UNHCR refugee here, and demanded a ransom of RM10,000.

Several calls were made and each time the men would assault him to have his cousin hear his cries. It was close to midnight but his cousin telephoned several church members and related what had happened. About 20 friends chipped in and the ransom was raised within an hour.

They were then told to leave the cash at a given location. However, Hung Za’s cousin went with a few friends. The kidnappers, who watched from afar, played it safe and kept away. For that, Hung Za suffered more beatings.

The men told him that they were sparing his life because of his ethnicity. They showed him a blood-soaked bedsheet, claiming they had killed the two other victims Hung Za had seen earlier.

"We slit their throats and cut up their bodies. This is what we do for a living. You are lucky you are a Chin and not a Rakhine Buddhist (or else) we would have killed you like the other two. You should know we Rohingyas love eating human flesh," said an assailant.

Hung Za said he never saw the other two Myanmar victims again.

The next morning, the victim’s cousin was told to deposit the cash into a bank account, after which Hung Za was released in the city.

The victim was so traumatised that he remained in his room for three days before seeking treatment. At the hospital, police learned of Hung Za’s case and promptly recorded his statement.

"I was in immense pain. My jaw and face were so swollen that I could not even talk properly. I was just too scared to go out. The assailants seemed to know everything about us and our movements. They forced me to reveal my address and other personal details at knife-point and warned me they would return to kill me if I reported this to the police," he said.

It took hours of persuasion and reassurance by a Malaysian friend before he agreed to seek medical treatment at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, where he was warded for his injuries and discharged a day later.

Five arrested

Within a day after recording Hung Za’s statement, a police team led by Dang Wangi district CID chief DSP M. Gunalan swung into action, arresting a 22-year-old female suspect in Penang.

It was the bank account of this Malaysian woman that the suspects had used for the ransom payout.

She led police to the arrest of three main suspects.

They were all picked up in Selayang and several other locations in the city.

Police also arrested the Myanmar wife of one of the suspects in Penang.

It is learnt that one of the male suspects nabbed was allegedly behind at least two murder cases that occurred in Selayang a few months ago.

However, the Myanmar who was armed with a stun gun during the abduction remains at large.

Dang Wangi acting police chief ACP Rasdi Ramli said the suspects are under a remand order for investigations.

"We are tracking down the last suspect and hope to capture him soon," he said.

Investigators believe the gang was involved in more than a dozen cases of crimes on foreigners but many may have gone unreported.

Australian High Court hears details of missing asylum seekers


Source Greenleft, 19 July

Photo via Refugee Rights Action Network WA/RRAN.org

The case of 153 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka taken into Australian custody at sea returned to the High Court on July 18. Due to government secrecy, court proceedings have so far been the only reliable source of information about what is happening to the group.

Documents submitted to the High Court on July 17 revealed further details about the conditions in which 153 Tamil asylum seekers are being held. Lawyers representing 86 of those taken aboard an Australian Customs ship but not brought to Australia say the asylum seekers have not been able to make any formal refugee claims.

WHERE ARE THEY?

Their exact location is still unknown. Before the High Court challenge, immigration minister Scott Morrison refused to even confirm the group existed, staying secret on the basis of “operational security”. Once the court forced him to confirm they were in Australian custody, he refused to reveal more because “the matter is before the court ”.

Neither the United Nations nor the Senate have been able to find out more about what is happening to them. The Refugee Action Coalition believes they were transferred to the ACV Ocean Protector, a Customs ship reportedly set up to hold 120 extra passengers.

The court document has now revealed more. It said the women and children, including a two-year-old, are being held separately to the men in windowless locked rooms on the ship.

“They have no freedom of movement,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported. “[They] can only leave their rooms in the presence of those guarding them, and do not know who the guards are, the document says.

“It also reveals that their possessions, including any mobile phones, were seized when they were detained, and asserts they are being denied ‘reasonable access’ to legal advice.”

The Guardian said the document also revealed “they have had no opportunity to deliver their protection claims – despite all claiming to be refugees – and had no access to a qualified translator despite almost all being unable to speak English”.

WHO ARE THEY?

The document also confirmed that all those on board are Tamils, most of whom likely have legitimate refugee claims. Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam told the ABC that 11 of the 153 had been tortured by the Sri Lankan military.

"They fled Sri Lanka to a refugee camp in India and from there got on a boat and came to Australia,” he said. “If they are handed over to the Sri Lankan authorities we are certain their lives are in danger.

"Those who have been tortured in the past are at higher risk of facing more problems of the Sri Lanka intelligence agency. We are very worried.

"We have now got more information about these refugees and we know that if we don’t keep an eye on them, the Sri Lankan authorities will torture them."

At least 37 of those on board are children aged between two and 16.

WHERE WILL THEY END UP?

The lawyers acting for the refugees say they are challenging the legality of Australia sending them back to Sri Lanka or to offshore detention on Manus Island or Nauru. So the outcome of the case will determine this.

After issuing an injunction stopping the forced return of the asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, the High Court ordered the government to give 72 hours’ notice before any deportation.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he does not intend to turn them over to the Sri Lankan navy. But the government has already handed over a group of 41 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, where the 28 men, four women, seven boys and two girls now face criminal charges.

However, Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, told ABC News 24 his country would not take the group: "I can categorically deny and reject any plans of Sri Lanka to take over the suspected, speculated, presumed asylum seekers coming from India.”

India has also reportedly shown resistance to accepting the refugees back. More than 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live as refugees in India, many in camps described by aid workers as “poor to adequate”. IRIN news say some refugees “live in thatched huts, others in small cement block houses; water and sanitation are problematic in the more remote camps”.

Sri Lankan Tamils living outside the camps generally live in poverty without citizenship rights or welfare support.

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130,000 Myanmar refugees to go home


Source Bangkokpost, 12 July


Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha AP.

Thailand and Mynamar will work together to send more than 130,000 Myanmar refugees back to their home country, National Council for Peace and Order Prayuth Chan-ocha says.

Speaking on his weekly Return Happiness to the People TV show yesterday, Gen Prayuth said he discussed the issue with Myanmar Supreme Commander Gen Min Aung Hlaing during his visit to Thailand last week.

Gen Prayuth said Thailand and Myanmar will work together to facilitate the return to Myanmar of the refugees.

The two countries will ensure the refugees will return safely to Myanmar in compliance with humanitarian principles, Gen Prayuth said.

The two countries have also agreed to cooperate over the nationality verification of Rohingya immigrants.

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Victims of Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Day Concentration Camps of Burma/Myanmar


Press released by NDPHR(exile),

Pl find the report of-

“Victims of Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Day Concentration Camps of  Burma/Myanmar” by clicking the link..  Roh and Kaman in Getto

 

WORLD REFUGEE DAY (20 June 2014): HOPE FOR THE FUTURE


Press released by MERHROM, 22 June

World Refugee Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the struggles of refugees who forced to flee their country due to war, conflict and human rights abuses. Every year the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are increasing. According to the United Nations report, to date more than 50 million people worldwide currently refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons within their own countries. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) facing great challenges to cope with the current situation where the numbers are increasing tremendously for the past few years due to war and conflict in some particular countries.

The world effort to reduct the conflict is very little compared to the huge numbers of refugees and asylum seekers who suffered from endless human rights abuses around the world.

We the minority ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar become the victims of genocide for more than 6 decades. The United Nations has announced the ethnic Rohingya as the most prosecuted ethnic in the world. But what the United Nations and the World Leaders do to stop the genocide? Until now they are not able to stop the genocide. We are dying and living in hardship day by day and waiting when the situation will change.

While the International communities continuously urge the United Nations, Super Power Countries, World Leaders, ASEAN and OIC to intervene with the Myanmar government to stop the genocide against minority Rohingya, non of them can do so.

Why can’t the United Nations and the Super Power Countries stop the war and conflict around the world? The problem is the United Nations and the Super powers do not want to resolve the issue for their own interest. We are very much frustrated to see the United Nations as the most mandated body in the world fail to stop the genocide agaist minority Rohingya in Myanmar. We hope for the Super Power Countries to use their influence to increase pressure to Myanmar government to stop the genocide against stateless Rohingya but our lives does not matter to them.
There is no political will to stop the killing and human rights abuses towards minority Rohingya.

The United Nations and the Super Power Countries must work towards reducing war and conflict around the world rather than looking for more budgets to cope with the increase numbers of refugees.

We regret to see how the ASEAN react to the plights of Rohingya. The ASEAN do not able to face the Myanmar government to stop the Genocide towards ethnic minority. The failure of ASEAN to deal with Myanmar government has serious impact on the ASEAN members. The refugees and the asylum seekers forced to flee Myanmar and seek refuge in neigboring countries especially Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Non of these countries have sign the 1951 Refugee Convention. Meaning there is no protection guarantee for the refugees and asylum seekers who seeking refuge in those countries. We are not allow to work, our children could not go to formal school and we have to pay higher fees for the hospitalization and treatment.

We have a big hope for the OIC members to deal with the Myanmar government to stop the genocide but we are still hoping until now. While hoping hundreds or even thousand of us have died in our homeland or in transit countries.

What else can we hope? How long can we hope? So many issues are not resolved.

While we thankful to the Malaysian government for giving us the place to stay temporarily, we still have some major issues that we always bring to the attention of the Malaysian government. That includes the rights to work, rights to formal education, rights to health and others. We are strugling day by day to feed our families. As the Malaysian government did not give us the permission to work, we have to work illegally and we have to face the Malaysian law for working illegaly.

Currently there are huge numbers of Rohingya asylum seekers fail to register themselves at the UNHCR office. We do not understand why the UNHCR take a lengthy time to register ethnic Rohingya. As a result there are huge numbers of Rohingya in police lock-ups, prisons and dentention camps throughout Malaysia. Most of them have major health problem due to their background. The United Nations has already well known the plight of Rohingya in Myanmar especially after the attack on minority Rohingya in June 2012. However the registration process is very slow and this put them at high risk of arrest.

We are frustrated with the slow registration process by the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur for the ethnic Rohingya. We put our lives in great danger when we flee our country to seek protection in neigboring countries. When we reached the UNHCR office we face the hardship to register ourselves with them.

We have to wait for many years for the registration process and meanwhile many were arrested by the authorities. As a result thousands of Rohingya currently detain in detention camps. Some Rohingya died in the detention camps and suffered from serious diseases.

Next week the Muslims around the world will be fasting in the month of Ramadhan. Lots of our Mosques and Madrasah has been burnt especially after the conflict in June 2012. Our religious rights has been taken away by the Myanmar government as they closing the Mosques and do not allow us to perform our religious duties.

For the upcoming Holy month of Ramadhan, we are hoping that the UNHCR and Malaysian government could release the Rohingya in detentions so that they also can perform the religious duties in better condition. Back home we do not know how our families can go through the month of Ramadhan as the Myanmar government continuously prosecute us in different ways. We are not allow to perform prayers at Mosqeus what else prayers in the month of Ramadhan. We feel very sad as we could not perform our religious duties in our home land.

While the United Nations and World Leaders highlighting the refugee issues arround the world, the plight of Rohingya refugees are always left behind. We are the forgotton one though the United Nations themselves categories the Rohingya as the most prosecuted ethnic in the world.

We only ask for one thing from the United Nations, Super Power Countries, ASEAN, OIC and International Communities at large. Please STOP the Genocide towards minority Rohingya.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani
President
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
Tel No: +6016-6827287
Blog: www.merhrom.wordpress.com
Email: rights4rohingya
Email: rights4rohingyas
https://www.facebook.com/zafar.ahmad.
https://twitter.com/merhromZafar

Australia offers asylum-seekers £5,500 to return home


Source telegraph, 21 June

Australia is offering asylum-seekers in its Pacific immigration camps up to $10,000 (£5,500) if they voluntarily return to their home country, a report said Saturday, prompting outrage from refugee campaigners.

Fairfax Media reported that those returning to Lebanon from detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny Pacific state of Nauru were offered the highest amount of $10,000.

Iranians and Sudanese were given $7,000 if they dropped bids for refugee status, Afghans $4,000 and those from Pakistan, Nepal and Burma $3,300, the report in The Sydney Morning Herald said.

The Herald said under the previous Labor administration – in office until last September – the payments were much lower, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has not confirmed the figures, but a spokesman said the “return packages” were “tailored to the circumstances of each case”.

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“The process of voluntary return is conducted in direct partnership with the International Organization for Migration. It has been standard policy and practice for more than 10 years.”

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government should be ensuring that asylum-seekers’ claims were being properly processed, not issuing “blank cheques”.

“When Scott Morrison was in opposition, he opposed Labor’s own reintegration packages and now he is offering sums which are triple the amount,” Marles told the ABC.

Australia has toughened its policy on asylum-seekers in recent years, with those arriving on unauthorised boats now refused residency in Australia even if they are deemed refugees.

Instead they are held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru and are expected to be resettled in those countries if their claims are valid.

Since the policy was introduced, more asylum-seekers have chosen to voluntarily return to their country of origin while the number of people attempting to reach Australia by boat has dried up, with no boats arriving for six months.

Morrison’s spokesman said 283 people had voluntarily returned home from offshore processing centres since shortly after the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott won power in September.

Refugee campaigners criticised the idea of the payments, and said returning asylum-seekers could still face persecution back home.

“The idea that you would put people in a hell hole like Manus Island, treat them abysmally and then try to bribe them to go back to the appalling circumstances they left shows just how morally bankrupt this government is,” Greens party leader Christine Milne said.

Edited by Andrew Marszal

Briefing the Burmese Rohingya Crisis on World Refugee Day – 20th June 2014


This report is prepared for the record of Rohingya..

The below link is full report of “Briefing the Burmese Rohingya Crisis on World Refugee Day – 20th June 2014″

World Refugee Day 2014 on Rohingya

Rohingya refugees in Indonesia await resettlement that never comes


Source irin, 25 April

Download.aspx?Source=Report&Year=2014&ImageID=201404250720060290&Width=490 Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRINRohingya refugees at IOM-managed accommodation in Makassar
pass their days waiting for "good news"

MAKASSAR, 25 April 2014 (IRIN) – When Mohammed and Minara Ali ran from their burning home in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, nearly two years ago, they had no idea where they were going or how they would get there.

“To save our lives, we ran away,” said Mohammed. “The military were shooting at us; my father was killed by the shooting and until now, I don’t know what happened to my two younger brothers.”

Mohammed, 35, and his wife, Minara, 26, are Rohingya – an ethnic, Muslim minority group who have faced decades of persecution and discrimination in Myanmar. Burmese law does not recognize them as citizens, hampering their access to healthcare, education and employment.

The Alis joined thousands of Rohingya who were fleeing riots that had erupted between the majority Rakhine Buddhist population and local Rohingya residents in June 2012. They boarded a crowded boat and used Minara’s wedding ring to pay for their passage. After many days at sea, they reached Malaysia where Mohammed found work labouring in paddy fields. However, local police regularly stopped him and confiscated his meagre salary and after six months during which the Alis’ asylum application remained undecided, survival had become almost impossible. They decided to sell what was left of Minara’s wedding jewellery to pay a smuggler to organize their passage to Australia from Indonesia.

“After two days, the [boat’s] engine broke down and we were floating at sea for three days,” recalled Mohammed. “Then we came to an island, but there was no food there, only monkeys, so someone phoned the police to come and rescue us.”

They spent the next year in detention in Jakarta – five months in separate cells at the city’s immigration headquarters and the remaining time at an immigration detention centre where they were able to apply for asylum.

"We suffered a lot in detention," said Mohammed. "There were many mosquitoes and it was dirty and, in the first place, we weren’t allowed to talk to UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] or IOM [International Organization for Migration]."

After being granted refugee status two months ago, they were moved to accommodation managed by IOM in Makassar, a bustling city on the southwest coast of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. IOM also provides them with a small monthly stipend to buy food and basic necessities. "We’re free here, but we always have tension, thinking about my mother and other siblings [in Myanmar]," said Mohammed. "From here, we can’t assist them."

Barred from working

Refugees are barred from working in Indonesia and even if they had any jewellery left to sell to pay a smuggler, “there’s no way now to go to Australia by boat,” said Abdul Ghani, 23, another Rohingya refugee staying in the same building in Makassar.

Over the last six months, Australia’s military-led operation to prevent boats carrying asylum seekers from reaching its shores has been extremely effective, even if its practice of towing boats already in Australian waters back towards Indonesia has been criticized by UNHCR as in breach of the Refugee Convention. Smugglers and their clients have now largely abandoned attempts to reach Australia by sea.

The Alis spend their days waiting for UNHCR to come with "good news". Good news would mean resettlement to a country where they could live without fear and earn a living, but their wait is likely to be a long one.

For refugees living in desperate circumstances around the world, resettlement is often the hope that sustains them. However, for the vast majority, it remains a distant hope with less than 1 in 10 of the 700,000 refugees globally that UNHCR estimates to be in need of resettlement departing for resettlement countries in an average year.

For refugees in Indonesia, the odds are slightly better with nearly 900 refugees out of about 3,300 who were eligible departing for resettlement in 2013. However, none of them were Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

“Why is it that other nationalities get resettlement and not Rohingya? This is my very important question,” said Ghani. Other Rohingya refugees that IRIN interviewed in Makassar repeated the same question.

According to UNHCR, refugees from Myanmar have been major beneficiaries of resettlement programmes in recent years. In 2012, they accounted for 22,000 of the nearly 75,000 cases that UNHCR submitted to resettlement countries for consideration. How many of those (refugees from Myanmar) were Rohingya is not recorded but a large number were non-Rohingya refugees living in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border who were resettled to the USA through a group resettlement programme whichended in early 2014.

Malaysia versus Indonesia

In the last year, over 1,000 asylum seekers from Myanmar have arrived in Indonesia. Anecdotal reports suggest the vast majority are Rohingya who, like the Alis, tired of waiting for refugee status in neighbouring Malaysia which is host to over 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar. Neither country is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, but refugee status determination by UNHCR is generally quicker in Indonesia and more care and support progammes for refugees are available, most of them provided by IOM with funding from the Australian government.

Although there are more informal work opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, Ghani opted to come to Indonesia after five years working in restaurants and factories there while waiting for his asylum application to be processed. “In Malaysia I got money, but not enough for me, for my future, because I had no identity, no documents,” he told IRIN. “I applied for refugee status there, but after such a long time I gave up.”

Call for regional response

In an emailed response to questions from IRIN, Vivian Tan, a regional spokesperson for UNHCR based in Bangkok, wrote: “Partly because of the limited scope of resettlement, we have to be very careful not to create false expectations or a ‘pull factor’ through resettlement.”

However, Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission for IOM in Indonesia said there was a need for UNHCR to provide greater public clarity concerning the current lack of resettlement of Rohingya refugees from Indonesia so that “other Rohingya don’t get false hopes and make the journey to Indonesia thinking they will be resettled.”

Tan acknowledged that continued tensions in Rakhine State preclude the option of voluntary repatriation for Rohingya refugees and that “there is no prospect for local integration in their host countries…

“UNHCR has been advocating with host governments for temporary protection for them… and access to basic services such as shelter, food, health care and education. Where possible, we are also urging governments to grant them the right to legal work so that they can support themselves while waiting for other options to open up,” she added.

Sarnata Reynolds, a senior human rights adviser at Refugees International pointed out that “resettlement has to be used carefully” to avoid playing into the Myanmar government’s “policy of exclusion” of the Rohingya. However, she disputed the suggestion that it could act as a pull factor. “Conditions in Myanmar [for the Rohingya] are so bad that they can’t survive there,” she told IRIN over the phone from Washington DC.

“I think over time there will have to be a regional response that’s more orchestrated and takes into account the fact that they’re not going anywhere,” she added.

Ghani is well aware that his future is likely to remain on hold for some time to come. “I can’t make a plan, I can only hope for a better life through resettlement,” he said. “UNHCR told me only to wait and I’m not considering going to back to Malaysia, but I don’t know how long I can wait. I’m always thinking about my family.”

ks/cb

Dr. ABID BAHAR’S POWERPOINT PRESENTATION ON THE HISTORIC RAKHINE-ROHINGYA RELATIONS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN


RISE OF A PREDATORY CULT IN THE BAY AND THE HISTORIC SUFFERING OF THE ROHINGYA (2)

Poor conditions in detention centres fuel violence


Source gulftimes, 29 Decundefined
Activists say overcrowding, combined with long detention periods, violates rights and puts migrants at increased risk of violence.

Dire conditions in Indonesia’s immigration detention system fuel outbreaks of violence, human rights activists claim.

Many facilities are located in remote parts of the country, sometimes as much as 2,000km from the capital, Jakarta.

“The conditions in the overcrowded, squalid Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs) contribute to a tense atmosphere that can lead to violence,” said Alice Farmer, a researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) and author of a 2013 report on abuses against migrant children in Indonesia.

The Indonesian government operates up to 16 centres to detain migrants who enter the archipelago illegally, mostly on their way to Australia, including asylum seekers who fled persecution and conflict in their home countries.

According to November 2013 data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Indonesia hosts 10,897 refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Myanmar. On April 6, 2013, a group of Rohingya men reportedly attacked a group of Burmese Buddhist men inside the Belawan IDC on Sumatra Island after a member of their community was allegedly sexually harassed. The fight that ensued left eight people dead.

Overcrowding, combined with long detention periods, violates rights and puts migrants at increased risk of violence, activists say. The first step toward a solution is better co-operation and monitoring.

Commenting on the April brawl to reporters, Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana claimed there were 480 migrants in the Belawan facility at the time, four times its capacity, according to an interview HRW conducted with the facility’s director.

Anil, 35, a Sri Lankan migrant detained in Belawan for 11 months, witnessed the fight and said the mood inside the facility changed after the violence.

“We were scared of more fights. We started to protest to be released.”

An immigration official, who asked not to be named, said there were 265 migrants in Belawan IDC in mid-December 2013.

The 2013 HRW report said regular periods of overcrowding in several facilities resulted in “packed rooms with little or no privacy” and, in one case, one toilet for 37 people.

The report also alleged several incidents of violence against detainees, including children.

“Inside Pontianak IDC (on Indonesia’s Kalimantan Island), I spoke with dozens of migrants and asylum seekers who spoke of their fear of violence inside the facility,” said HRW’s Farmer.

“The guards’ track record of beating detainees perpetuates this problem… no child, no asylum seeker, should be left in these conditions.”

Anil, the Sri Lankan migrant, said the conditions, including the quality and amount of food, and basic sanitation have been unreliable since he was first detained in January 2013.

“For the past 20 days we have had trouble getting enough water because there is a problem with the pipes.”

According to UNHCR, 142 refugees departed for third country resettlement in November, mainly to Australia, bringing the total for 2013 to 875 individuals, the highest number in the past decade.

However, for many the waiting period can be excruciatingly long, and some asylum seekers stay in detention centres or other restricted housing facilities for years, unable to work or send their children to school, while they wait for news about their application. This frustration drives many into the hands of people smugglers who attempt to take them to Australia on unsafe, overcrowded fishing boats.

Hundreds of asylum seekers lose their lives each year on the dangerous journey, many of them women and children.

On December 10, a boat sank off Indonesia’s coast, when three asylum seekers, including one child, died.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, but observers say this should not prevent action to improve conditions in the IDCs, and call on Australia to take the lead.

“Ultimately, Indonesia should become party to the Refugee Convention, but that goal is a while off in the future, so interim measures need to be taken to improve conditions in the country for migrants,” said Graeme McGregor, the refugee campaign coordinator at Amnesty International-Australia.

HRW recommended that all Australian funding for migration activities in Indonesia be “conditional on respect for human rights and international standards on migrant detention conditions, including provisions for monitoring and review.”

McGregor pointed out, “Many immigration detention activities in Indonesia are funded by Australia, and while Australia is one of the only countries in the region with mechanisms, however faulty, for dealing with asylum seekers and refugees, there is a still a lot of hypocrisy in their policies and actions.”

Pointing to a series of recommendations Amnesty has made about Australia’s role regarding asylum seekers in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, “Working to improve detention conditions and practices in Indonesia would go a long way toward repairing that hypocrisy.”

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