Monthly Archives: May 2011

No Burmese refugees, says Ruddock


source from Nine News, 29 May 2011

Liberal MP and former immigration minister Philip Ruddock says there are needier people in need of resettlement in Australia than those from Burma.

It is one of the chief reasons he rejects the federal government’s proposed asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia.

The government is on the brink of signing a deal under which 800 asylum seekers would be sent to Malaysia, with Australia accepting 4000 refugees in return.

Malaysia is home to about 90,000 asylum seekers and refugees, of whom 92 per cent are Burmese – meaning they will make up the bulk of the contingent headed to Australia.

But Mr Ruddock thinks this is unfair.

"I don’t know whether the Burmese are the most appropriate people in need of resettlement in the world," he told Sky News on Sunday.

"It is part of a deal that they get a priority place.

"But if (those spots) are used up in a political solution, the help that’s needed for those who need it most will be denied."

Poor living standards and crackdowns on ethnic minorities, such as the Shan and Karen, have driven millions to flee Burma, which a military dictatorship has ruled since 1962.

Seven in every 100 children will die before the age of five, mostly due to preventable diseases, but the junta spends just two per cent of its budget on health.

Mr Ruddock said there were more genuine refugees elsewhere.

"If you go to the UNHCR, they will tell you we have to look at those people who are unsafe where they are, where they have no prospect of ever being returned home, where they are genuine refugees," he said

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Refugee swap: NGOs keep the heat on


source from freemalaysiatoday, 25 May 2011

The NGOs submit a memorandum to the Australian High Commission, and reiterate their concern for the safety of the asylum seekers should the deal materialise.

KUALA LUMPUR: Several NGOs submitted a joint memorandum to the Australian High Commission here today protesting the asylum seekers swap between Malaysia and Australia.

At a press conference later, Tenaganita chairman Irene Fernandez said civil societies were in the dark about the details of the agreement.

“So we asked for the details but the deputy high commissioner (Arthur Spyrow) was unable to provide it. He said both governments are still working on it,” she added.

Irrespective of the terms and conditions, Fernandez said civil societies were against the plan as it would expose the asylum seekers to human rights violation due to Malaysia’s poor track record in upholding human rights.

Lawyers for Liberty adviser Eric Paulsen said he could not understand why Australia would sign such a deal with Malaysia.

“Malaysia must change its law and policies on asylum seekers first before pursuing this agreement,” he said.

The Australian government announced this month that it planned to transfer 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing.

In return, the nation downunder would accept and resettle 4,000 registered refugees living in Malaysia in the next four years.

The new initiative by both nations drew flak from NGOs and also the UN High Commissioner for Human Right Navi Pillay as Malaysia was not a signatory to the UN convention of refugees.

The NGO’s feared that Malaysia had a poor track record in managing asylum seekers which could expose them to abuse.

Myanmar in fake card scam held


New straits Times, 21 may 2011

ALOR STAR: A Myanmar has been arrested for forging the membership cards of one of his country’s political parties and selling them to his countrymen who enter Malaysia illegally.

With the cards, the illegal migrants would apply for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur.

The state Immigration Department got a break on the 43-year-old suspect’s activities, the first of its kind in the country, after a team from its enforcement unit raided a house in Taman Mahsuri in Jitra, near here, on Thursday.

Its deputy director, Hasreena Hashim, said the suspect, claiming to be the chief of the National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA) Malaysia, would forge membership cards of his political party for RM500 a piece to other Myanmar nationals who entered the country illegally.

She said with the forged cards, the illegal foreigners would apply for refugee status with the UNHCR. (UNHCR documents are highly prized among refugees in Malaysia because they offer them some protection if they are picked up by Malaysian authorities.)

However, the ring’s activities were detected by the UNCHR which later raised the alarm with the department, which in turn, set up a sting operation to nab the culprits.

Hasreena said nine other Myanmar nationals, including a woman, 24, were picked up at the house rented by the suspect, who is also believed to be the counterfeit NLD-LA card ring’s leader.

Several equipment used to produce the forged membership cards were seized during the 11am raid.

They included two desktop computers, a printer, a scanner and several printed papers.

The ring leader was arrested under Section 55D of the Immigrations Act 1959/63 (Amended 2002) for producing the counterfeit cards and faces a maximum RM30,000 fine and 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum six strokes of the rotan.

His ring members, aged between 24 and 40, were detained under Section 6(3) of the same act for illegally entering the country.

They face the maximum RM10,000 fine or 10 years’ jail or both upon conviction.

Meanwhile, the department arrested six Myanmar nationals, found without valid travel documents in a car in Hutan Kampung here yesterday.

The suspects, including a woman, 20, were on their way to Bukit Selambau after they arrived here on land from Thailand recently.

UN questions legality of Malaysia refugee swap


source from ABC news, 24 May 2011

UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

The United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (left) and the “father of reconciliation” Patrick Dodson, take part in the forum in Sydney last night. (AAP: Paul Miller)

The United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights has questioned Australia’s asylum seeker deal with Malaysia, saying the plan could violate international law.

Earlier this month the Government agreed on an in-principle refugee swap with Malaysia that would see Australia resettle 4,000 Malaysian-based refugees in return for Malaysia accepting 800 asylum seekers.

UN high commissioner Navi Pillay used her speech at a forum in Sydney last night to remind the Australian Government about its human rights obligations to asylum seekers.

She told the forum of her concerns about the deal with Malaysia, a country that has not ratified conventions on torture or refugees.

Ms Pillay appealed for Australians to be more humane to asylum seekers, who she said were still entitled to human rights.

She says the deal may violate international law.

“If Australia is serious about this policy of sending 800 people out to Malaysia, then I think it violates refugee law,” she said.

“They cannot send individuals to a country that has not ratified the torture convention, the convention on refugees.

“So there are no protections for individuals in Malaysia. And if Australia, of all people, that upholds [international standards], should not collaborate with these kinds of schemes.”

Ms Pillay also spoke of her distress over Australia’s mandatory detention policy, something she said was not effective and cost Australia too much money.

She says the Malaysia deal will be expensive and Australia would be better off concentrating on speeding up the time it takes to process asylum seekers.

Ms Pillay says there is no date on when people can expect to enter Australia having gone through a process.

“The process should be legal and it should be expedited,” she said.

“Resources should be spent on speeding up the process rather than investing these huge amounts of money on detention centres and shipping people out to Malaysia and having them join a queue and offering them the possibility of ‘I don’t know when it will happen’.”

Refugee advocates have welcomed Ms Pillay’s comments.

Obligation

Human Rights Law Centre executive director Phil Lynch says the Government should abandon the deal with Malaysia.

“I would say that Australia’s obligation is to provide protection to those people who lawfully seek asylum under the Refugees Convention,” he said.

“That is Australia’s international obligation, it is our moral obligation, it is our human obligation.”

Ms Pillay is likely to raise her concerns when she meets Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra today.

The Government says it is certain its plan to process refugees in Malaysia is lawful, but nonetheless is expecting legal challenges.

It was left to Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe to explain the strategy during Senate estimates last night.

“The Australian Government is quite confident, very confident of the lawfulness of this policy and this approach,” he told the hearing.

“We’ve seen that this is a contested area of public policy, not only at the political level but… between the Government and various advocacy groups.”

34 Burmese Rebels to be Freed in Bengal


Irrawaddy news, 19 May 2011

Thirty-four Burmese rebels are to be freed on Thursday from Presidency Prison in Kolkata after being detained for more than 12 years.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Tint Swe, a New Delhi-based minister with the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the unofficial Burmese government in exile, said, “Thirty-one of them will fly to New Delhi. The other three will be transferred to Port Blair for questioning over a minor case. I got this information from Indian sources.”

The three men—two Arakan and one Karen— will be freed after questioning as they are already recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, said Tint Swe.

All 34 men have UNHCR refugee certificates, and are expected to remain in New Delhi until they can be resettled in a third country.

“The resettlement program will mostly depend on each man’s willingness,” said Tint Swe. “The Burmese community here in New Delhi will help them the best we can.”

The NCGUB leader said he wanted to publicly thank the Indian government for their humanitarian attitude in resolving this case.

“We are very thankful to the government and people of India for understanding the situation and freeing these men,” he said. “There may be a relationship between the Burmese and Indian governments, but this case has shown that there exists in India much sympathy toward these men and the Burmese community here in India.”

The 34 rebels, members of the National United Party of Arakan and of the Karen National Union, were arrested by the Indian Navy in 1998 after arriving on Landfall Island in the Andaman Sea for a supposed meeting with Indian Intelligence officials.

Held without charge for more than eight years in the Andaman islands, six group leaders were killed while the rest were transferred to prison in Kolkatta, charged with entering the country without valid papers, for smuggling weapons and explosives, and for attempting to sell them to insurgents in northeastern India.

The detainees claimed they had reached a deal with Indian Intelligence allowing them to establish a base on Landfall Island in the Nicobar and Andaman archipelago in exchange for providing intelligence on Chinese naval activities in the Andaman Sea. They have said they asked India not to send them back to Burma.

On July 12, 2010, a court in Kolkatta sentenced the 34 Burmese exiles to 15 months imprisonment and a fine of 6,000 rupees [US $130] each, after they had spent more than 10 years behind bars on charges related to insurgency.

Likely Malay plan refugees are Christian Burmese, and already assessed


australian.com, 10 May 2011

THE 4000 refugees likely to come to Australia under the Malaysian solution are Burmese, the majority of them Christians.

There are 93,000 asylum-seekers and proven refugees in Malaysia, most of them living in the Klang Valley in and around the capital Kuala Lumpur.

They are not being held in camps, but are living in poor, largely rented, accommodation “in the community” while they await either assessment by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or, if already assessed as refugees, await placement in another country.

The UNHCR is helping them with training, and to get work, so that they can look after themselves as far as possible. They are free within Malaysia’s borders, but mostly lack travel documents to go beyond.

Malaysia’s high commissioner to Canberra, Salman Ahmad, said on Sunday that although his country was not a signatory to the UN refugee convention refugees in Malaysia were treated with respect and dignity. He said that while the 800 asylum-seekers to be sent from Australia under the plan would not be placed in detention they would be contactable and monitored by authorities.

But 92 per cent of them are from Burma. Most of these people have come overland through Thailand with the assistance of people-smugglers.

About 73,000 of them have already been assessed by the UNHCR as refugees, and are awaiting resettlement in third countries, with the alternatives being to return voluntarily to a Burma now run by a civilian government or to become “locally integrated” — a less likely outcome.

They have escaped Burma for a range of reasons, including constant warfare between the army and hill tribes, and the persecution of regime opponents. They come from many areas of Burmese society, however, the biggest groups represented are Christian Chin (about 36,000), Muslim Rohingya (20,400), Burmese Muslims (9400), Mon (3900) and Kachin (3400).

Amnesty International Australia’s refugee spokesman Graham Thom said yesterday that though they lived in the community they had no legal status so were frequently rounded up as part of regular clampdowns on the two million illegal foreign workers believed to be in Malaysia, alongside the two million legally in the country.

That was how asylum-seekers came to be in detention centres, where conditions had been condemned by Amnesty.

“Refugees are copping it every day. Once they are arrested, their documents are often disregarded or destroyed, and they are charged with being illegal and are caned,” Mr Thom said.

“Refugee families live in fear that their children may go to the shops and not come back” — and it was hard for the already stretched UNHCR to find them.

Australian and Malaysian MPs Condemn Asylum Seeker Deal


Irrawaddy news, 10 May 2011

Lawmakers in Malaysia and Australia have spoken out against a deal between the two countries involving a swap of asylum seekers, with one Malaysian MP expressing doubts about promises from her country’s prime minister that refugees coming from Australia will be properly treated.

Under a deal announced on Saturday between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Australian counterpart, Julia Gilllard, the next 800 asylum seekers to arrive in Australia will be sent to Malaysia for processing by UN officials, and in return Australia will accept 4,000 refugees—most of them Burmese—waiting in Malaysia for third-country resettlement over the next four years.

The deal is aimed at deterring “boat people,” many of them stateless Rohingya from Burma, from trying to enter Australia to seek asylum. But Australia has come under criticism from rights groups and politicians of both countries because Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and has an appalling record of mistreating asylum seekers.

In response to the criticisms, Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told the Australian public broadcaster ABC yesterday that the Malaysian prime minister had made a firm commitment to respect the dignity and humanity of the asylum seekers, and that the agreement will be implemented once it is finally concluded, regardless of possible protests and legal challenges against the plan.

However, Teresa Kok, a Malaysian member of Parliament, said she has no faith whatsoever in Malaysia’s ability to fulfil the prime minister’s promise and that mistreatment of refugees in Malaysia, including harassment, extortion and violence, by RELA, an officially sanctioned vigilante group, have been well documented and yet the Malaysian government remains in denial of it.

“[The agreement] appears to treat human beings who have been uprooted from their homes and are stateless as mere goods, instead of helping the refugees gain protection and safety,” said Kok, who is one of the co-founders of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, which advocates democracy for Burma.

“I urge Prime Minister Najib to cancel the deal and instead focus on establishing a comprehensive national legal and administrative framework for the protection of refugees in Malaysia should his concern for them be genuine,” Kok said in an interview with The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

Human rights activists in Malaysia also said that there was no guarantee that asylum seekers sent to the country under a deal with Australia would be treated properly.

Cynthia Gabriel, of the leading Malaysian human rights organization Suaram, was quoted by ABC as saying: “There is absolutely no way [asylum seekers will be properly protected], unless there is a specific legal mechanism and a framework in which the Malaysian government states a clear commitment to it.”

In Australia, the Greens spokesperson for immigration, Sen Sarah Hanson-Young, criticized the decision to send asylum seekers to Malaysia, a country condemned for its appalling human rights standards, where stateless people are considered illegal and can be caned.

“We know that this plan breaches international law, so the burden is now on the government to prove it complies with the Migration Act,” she said in a statement.

Sayed Karsim, a Rohingya asylum seeker who has been living at the Villawood immigration detention center in Sydney for nearly two years, said that although he has been recognized as a refugee and is waiting for security clearance to settle in Australia, he is worried about other asylum seekers being deported to Malaysia.

“I was arrested and detained at least 10 times in Malaysia’s detention centers. I was beaten up and sold by Malaysian police to the human traffickers and my family had to pay a ransom for my freedom,” said the 38-year-old man, who fled Burma and illegally migrated to Malaysia in 1992, speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone.

He is one of thousands of ethnic Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Burma’s Arakan State, who have fled the country to escape discrimination and human rights abuses by the Burmese authorities.

“I came here to Australia by a small boat at the risk of my life. But this is for the future of my children, who have never received any education at all in their life,” he said.

Welcome to the Recent Bilateral Agreement between Malaysia and Australia


source from arrcinfo, 10 May 2011

We, undersigned overseas Rohingya organizations welcome the recent bilateral agreement between Malaysia and Australia for the resettlement of 4000 recognized refugees from Malaysia, though bulk majority of people surprise on the trade of 800 asylum seekers from Australia.

We salute the Honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mohammed Najib Tun Abdur Razzak, who is on rightful stance in ending refugee phenomena in Malaysia. His deal is directly representing the Rohingya refugees who have been languishing in Malaysia for more than 3 decades, reaching to 4th generation.

We also salute that the Honorable Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, who is keen to accept the Rohingya refugees from Malaysia, which was proved to the Rohingya Araknese Refugee Committee (RARC), Malaysia, previously known as Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC) by an email response from her behalf, dated 1 October 2010 “In relating to the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, should the UNHCR refer individuals for the resettlement in Australia, their visa applications will be considered at that time in accordance with legal requirements for grant of a visa.”

Government of Malaysia is well versed on the matter that more than 40,000 non-Rohingya Burmese refugees were resettled to third countries by the UNHCR in Malaysia in a past decade, where numbers of Rohingya refugees are around 250.

The Government of Malaysia also know the matter that there were the only Rohingya refugees in early 1980s and 1990s, while non-Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers are scrambling into the highest numbers with the help of some sorts of bias NGOs under hatred and discriminative policies towards the believer of the religion of Islam, which was suddenly begun in post 9/11.

Therefore, the Government of Malaysia is keen enough to sign deal to open a door to find a long-lasting solution for the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, whose rights are being undermined by various quarters.

The Government of Australia has good experiences on the sub-human condition and marginalized position of the Rohingya refugees, not only in Malaysia but also in abroad and thus the Government had already extended space for the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and releasing numbers of Rohingya asylum seekers from detention.

We hope that the Government of Australia will move for quick release of remaining Rohingya refugees from its detentions who are completed peace loving and waiting there for 2 years. At least 20-30 years of waiting for resettlement to third country, these Rohingya refugees left Malaysia, expecting a safe place through a perilous plight. Currently, their children, wives and beloved family members are underway to dangerous proportion with starvation, medication, protection and etc.

In these regards, we humbly appeal to both Governments of Australia and Malaysia to exercise balance role in resettling 4000 Rohingya refugees to Australia as an effective advocacy towards a long lasting solution for the world’s most forgotten and oppressed people “Rohingya”.

We also appeal to the international communities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help to co-operate the Governments of Australia and Malaysia to make success of the recent deal in order to find permanent solution for the Rohingya refugees who were inhumanely exterminated by successive military government of Burma through denial of citizenship rights, restriction on their movements, restriction on education, restriction on religious practice, restriction on family and economic development, forced labor, forced eviction, forced taxation, rape, torture, extra-judicial killings, model village settlement and many other types of gross human rights abuses which are clearly considered as “CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY”.

Signed by:

Arakan Rohingya Organization (JARO), Japan
Burmese Rohingya Association in United Arab Emirates (BRA-UAE)
Burmese Rohingya Democratic Alliance (BRDA)
Ethnic Rohingya Committee of Arakan (ERCA), Malaysia
Myanmar Muslim Council (MMC), Saudi Arabia
National Council for Rohingya (NCR), Malaysia
National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) exile, Headquarters, USA
National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) exile, SEA Regional Office, Malaysia
Arakan Rohingya Refugee Ulama Council (ARUC)
Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC), Malaysia
Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF), Arakan-Burma
World Rohingya Congress (WRC), USA
Individual Activists, Human Rights Defenders and general refugees; and others

For media contact:
Kyaw Soe Aung Te: +14147364273
Mohammad Sadek Tel: +60 163094599

Uniting Church shocked at people swapping plans of Australia


source from unitingjustice.org,9 May 2011

The Uniting Church in Australia has today written to all Federal Labor parliamentarians, expressing its shock at the cruel and punitive plan to ‘swap’ refugees with Malaysia.

The Church’s National Director for justice, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said, “It is one of the truly low points in Australian politics that a Government has made a deal to trade people like commodities. It is shocking that they have reached this ‘people swap’ deal with a country with an appalling human rights record.

“Australia has a moral obligation to provide safety for as many people as we can. We also have international obligations under the Refugee Convention to assess the claims for protection of everyone who comes to us seeking safety, regardless of how they arrive. We should not be trading people and we should not be trading one set of obligations for another.”

President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev. Alistair Macrae said “a commitment to increase the numbers of refugees Australia accepts from countries in our region where people’s lives are at risk is welcome – but engineering a swap to punish people who are exercising their right to seek asylum is a punitive attempt to score cheap political points.

“Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and it has a record of human rights abuses against asylum seekers and refugees,” he said.

Rev. Macrae has asked the government to clarify their position on treatment of asylum seekers sent from Australia.

“The Government maintains that Malaysia has agreed to treat the asylum seekers sent from Australia better than they treat those already in Malaysia, but it has also said that asylum seekers sent from Australia will not receive preferential treatment. We ask the Government to make clear what kind of treatment people will receive?” said Rev. Macrae.

The letter includes a number of questions the Church would like answered:

  • How will the 800 people be chosen?
  • Will children, families and unaccompanied minors be sent to Malaysia or will single men continue to bear the brunt of Australia’s damaging policies?
  • How will they be supported in Malaysia?
  • How will their safety be guaranteed?
  • Has Malaysia agreed to improve its treatment of all asylum seekers and refugees or just the 800 sent from Australia?
  • There are 92,000 refugees in Malaysia – who will choose who comes to Australia and on what basis?

Rev. Poulos said, “since Tampa, the politicisation of asylum seekers in Australia has continued to feed a race to the bottom, creating brutal policies and a whole mythology around the seeking of asylum that dehumanises vulnerable people, undermines our reputation as a country that seeks to uphold the human rights of all people and erodes people’s capacity to empathise with others in need.

“People have been fleeing violence and persecution since the beginning of human history. It has never been an orderly process and never will be. It appears, however, that we have lost the capacity to empathise, to imagine what it would be like for us, what lengths we might go to, to save our lives and secure a hopeful future for our children.

The Christian faith is not alone among religious traditions in placing at the core of its moral teachings the principles of welcoming the stranger, caring for the neighbour in need and treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated. It is impossible to imagine any of us who are safe and secure here in Australia being prepared to be ‘swapped’ under the conditions of the Government’s Malaysian deal,” said Rev. Poulos.

Malaysia sold me


NT news, 10 may 2011,

A BURMESE asylum seeker held in detention in Darwin has said he was sold by immigration officials in Malaysia to people smugglers.

The revelation came after the Federal Government announced a potential one-off deal with Malaysia where 800 asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat would instead be sent to Malaysia for processing.

The second part of the plan would see Australia accept 1000 refugees already processed by the UNHCR in Malaysia each year for the next four years.

The asylum seeker has been in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre after he made it to Ashmore Reef with a group of 10 Rohingya people on December 29, 2009.

The man said he was found to be a genuine refugee at the end of May last year.

He is from Burma’s Rohingya minority group and said he was granted refugee status in May last year but is still waiting for his security clearance from security agency ASIO. The man wrote in a letter of his experience describing the Rohingya an oppressed stateless people from Burma who have been the target of ethnic cleansing by the military to stop the creation of a Rohingyan state.

He said his family home was demolished several times by authorities and when he moved to his mother’s native village he found everyone subjected to violent abuse, extortion, military harassment and corporal punishment. He said he escaped to Thailand but could not stay there long because of hostility to Burmese people.

“In Malaysia, I was detained many times as Rohingya people (were subjected to a) constant cycle of humiliation, harassment and abuses,” he wrote.

“I was involved with Rohingya refugee organisations and Burmese political opposition groups based in Kuala Lumpur.

“Once I was detained, I was sold by corrupt immigration officials to people smugglers, I was then sold to a large fishing boat and forced to work at the threat of being shot at sea on the fishing boat.

“I managed to escape the boat when it came into land to collect ice and ran from the boat … ”

He said in order to avoid further persecution he came to Australia by boat from Indonesia. Here is his letter;

To whom it may concern

I am a Rohingya. An oppressed stateless people from Burma.

The Burmese military has long oppressed Rohingya and been involved in an ethnic-cleansing program to prevent the creation of a Rohingya state.

My life in Burma was very hard. My family house was demolished two times by authorities and as a result we had to move to my mothers native village. Every person in that village was subject to violent abuses, fines, extortion, military harassment and corporal punishment. I am aware that at least 100 villagers are still in detention and many have died in detention. My father was died for the subsequent detentions. My siblings were detained in 2008.

After I passed matriculation, I sneaked out Arakan (his home state) to Rangon to continue my study. If I did not leave in secret my family would have had to have paid a large bribe, which they could not afford.

In Rangon, I was involved in research into natural resources, as a part of my research, I was harassed, beaten and detained by government authorities. My colleagues managed to released me through a bribe.

To avoid further punishment, I escaped Burma to Thailand. In Thailand I survived by selling bread. I could not stay long (in) Thailand because of tension directed towards Burmese people. I then went to Malay border. I Malaysia, I was detained many times as Rohingya people (were subjected to) a constant cycle of humiliation, harassment and abuses. I was involved with Rohingya refugee organisations and Burmese political opposition groups based in KL (Kuala Lumpur). Then, I worked odd jobs in mechanical and electrical works.

Once I was detained, I (was) sold by corrupt immigration officials to people smugglers. I was then sold to a large fishing boat and forced to work at the threat of being shot at sea on the fishing boat. I managed to escape the boat when it came into land to collect ice and I ran from the boat.

In order to avoid further persecution, I came to your country via a risky boat journey from Indonesia. We, a group of 10 Rohingya, reached Ashmore Reef on 29 December 2009. And for the first time (there was) no fear of any more persecution. I was happy as I was sure I would find safety in Australia. I was found to be genuine refugee by DIAC since the end of May 2010. Since that time, I have been waiting for my security clearance. I am provided with good accommodation and food in detention in Australia. Some officers here are willing to listen to my concerns.

My life in detention however is very hard on my mind. I have been detained for 18 months. This makes me very depressed and I am tired (from) enduring physical and mental pains as a result of my detention. I have to take medicine for that. I feel as though I cant continue any longer to be detained like this. I have received many promises in detention. I was told in November 2010 that I should wait until the Christmas festival to be held. I was told many times that we may be able to be moved into community detention and be able to live free whilst I wait for my security clearance. On 17 March, the Government notice told everyone that their security clearance would be completed by April. I and my friends were happy to hear this after a long wait. I was told that us Rohingyans would be a priority case. I waited all of April for my clearance and have now been informed recently that it was be delay again.

I feel less and isolated, and I am an innocent refugee. I have been asked to go to a different country so I can escape this pain, but this cant happen. I do not know how long I will have to suffer from this indefinite detention. I have seen some friends attempt suicide, including by setting themselves on fire. I had to help move a friend down from a tree after he attempted to hang himself with a sari, a friend has banged his head a large number of times against a wall. Some have cut themselves.

I am trapped for an unknown reason. I am not a terrorist. I do not support terrorists and hate terrorists and my family has been the victim of many terrorist incidents from the Burmese authorities.

I should not be detained for being a refugee. Therefore I would like to approach the Australian communities to come together to call Australian Government to look kindly into the matter and why its notice is undermined.

Respectfully, long term detainee Burmese refugee asylum seeker, NIDC NT

 

Bar Council Malaysia’s press release , 9 May 2011

Asylum seekers and refugees are not commodities to be traded

The Malaysian Bar is opposed to the recently-announced arrangement agreed to between the Governments of Malaysia and Australia. As we understand the arrangement, Australia will send to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers who have been detained by the Australian authorities. In return, Australia commits itself to accepting for resettlement 4,000 refugees currently in Malaysia, over a period of four years.

The proposed exchange of asylum seekers for refugees between Malaysia and Australia is a misguided approach for dealing with a complex issue with serious ramifications.

It is irresponsible of Australia, as a State Party to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees adopted on 28 July 1951 (“Convention”), and its 1967 Protocol, to abdicate its international obligations under the Convention. Through this deal, Australia is consigning 800 people to a life of uncertainty and probable suffering, given that Malaysia is not a State Party to that Convention. Indeed, Malaysian law does not even recognise the concept of asylum seekers or refugees. Instead, it treats all undocumented persons as “illegal immigrants”, and subjects them to imprisonment and whipping.

It is untenable that Australia proposes to “pass the buck”, as it were, for the protection, care and support of these 800 asylum seekers, to Malaysia, when Malaysia has no comprehensive and organised system to provide assistance to asylum seekers or refugees. Even more astounding is the fact that Australia had reportedly rejected the use of an Australian-built processing facility in Nauru because that nation is not a signatory to the Convention, yet has no qualms about transferring asylum seekers to Malaysia.

As it is, Malaysia is already home to almost 100,000 asylum seekers and refugees who have been registered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur. None of these asylum seekers and refugees is provided with any material or financial help by the Malaysian Government for housing, jobs, education or health care. Because Malaysia has not acceded to the Convention, there are currently no legislative or administrative provisions in place for dealing with the situation of asylum seekers or refugees in the country. They exist in a shadow society in which they have no legal rights, and even less protection and security. They live in constant fear of the authorities – the police, immigration personnel and Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (“RELA”) members. The Malaysian Bar reiterates its concern that the legal situation and conditions of life of asylum seekers and refugees and their families in Malaysia is degrading, demeaning and dehumanising, and wholly unacceptable to any civilised society.

Thus, the Australian Government is proposing an arrangement under which it has no assurance that the asylum seekers it sends to Malaysia will be treated in accordance with international human rights norms, and in compliance with the principles of the Convention.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Australian and Malaysian Governments not to proceed with this arrangement. Instead, our Government must establish a proper and comprehensive framework for dealing with the situation of asylum seekers and refugees who are already in this country, and begin by according such persons due legal recognition. Malaysia must also demonstrate a proven track record of upholding human rights to the highest possible standards.

We wish to clarify that, contrary to the report titled “Pact gives refugees protection” published in today’s New Straits Times (“NST”), we did not say that the proposed plan is “generally a good one” or that “certain things needed to be done first”. Rather, our statement to NST asserted clearly that we are “stunned that Australia would have such an arrangement with Malaysia when Malaysia is not a State Party to the [Convention]”. Neither did we say that “the agreement was an opportunity for Malaysia to become a signatory to the [Convention]”; instead, we highlighted the urgent need for Malaysia to become a State Party to the Convention for the reasons outlined above.

Lim Chee Wee
President
Malaysian Bar

9 May 2011

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