Monthly Archives: August 2011

Australian High Court scuttles Malaysia swap deal


source from abc news
 
The High Court has declared the so-called Malaysian solution invalid, leaving the Federal Government’s refugee policy in tatters and 335 asylum seekers stranded on Christmas Island.

In a 6-1 decision, the court said Malaysia did not have laws in place to ensure the safety of asylum seekers.

Authorities will also not be allowed to send unaccompanied children away from Australia without the written consent of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

The Malaysian deal was made not by amending the Migration Act but by a declaration by Mr Bowen made under his ministerial powers.

But the High Court found that Malaysia was not legally bound to protect the asylum seekers under the Act, which therefore makes the declaration invalid.

“Malaysia is not a party to the Refugees Convention or its protocol,” the High Court said in a statement.

The four-year asylum swap deal, in which Malaysia would take 800 asylum seekers from Christmas Island in return for Australia accepting 4,000 refugees from Malaysia, was signed more than a month ago but almost immediately challenged by human rights lawyers.

‘Malaysia Solution’

  • Australia agrees to resettle 4,000 refugees from Malaysia in return for sending 800 asylum seekers there
  • Malaysia agrees to treat asylum seekers ‘in accordance with human rights standards’
  • Critics note Malaysia has not signed the UN Refugee Convention
  • Australia to pay for health care, education and special welfare needs for asylum seekers in Malaysia for at least four years
  • No blanket exceptions for children, even those who are unaccompanied, but decisions to be made on case-by-case basis
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, though not a signatory to the agreement, to help facilitate it
  • AFP officers given permission to use force to make asylum seekers comply with their relocation
  • Deal budgeted to cost $292 million, with $216 million of that covering cost of resettling refugees in Australia

Since then a temporary injunction had put the transfer of asylum seekers on hold – and now the High Court has declared the injunction permanent.

But it means it is likely Australia will still have to accept the 4,000 genuine refugees from Malaysia.

Mr Bowen said the decision was “profoundly disappointing”, raising questions over not just the Malaysian deal but the practice of offshore processing.

He defended the Government’s understanding of the immigration laws, saying the High Court “applied a new test to how protections should be demonstrated”.

“We respect the decision, but it is clearly a new test that had not been read into the Act.”

He also stood by the Malaysian deal, saying the news would embolden people smugglers.

“I think you can expect people smugglers to be capitalising on this arrangement and to say ‘You can come to Australia now because the agreement has been ruled invalid by the High Court’.”

Constitutional expert Professor Don Rothwell says it is “in the scope of the minister to re-issue a declaration” consistent with the reasoning of the court.

But it appears any new declaration would be doomed to fail unless Malaysia signed the United Nations Refugee Convention and its protocols.

In addition, should the Government try to amend the Migration Act to legalise the Malaysian deal, it would be blocked in the Senate by the Greens.

Professor Rothwell says the High Court’s judgment applies equally to Manus Island or Nauru, throwing into doubt not only the Government’s bid to reopen the Manus Island facility but also the legal basis of the Howard government’s Pacific solution.

He says the Government can revert to the on-shore processing system which is legal under the Migration Act.

“We could expect the Government will revert to the pre-Malaysian solution situation.

“It does very much indicate that any solution the Government is trying to achieve by way of offshore processing is called into doubt for the moment.”

The High Court statement said of third-country processing that the country must be legally bound by international law or its own domestic law to:

  • provide access for asylum seekers to effective procedures for assessing their need for protection;
  • provide protection for asylum seekers pending determination of their refugee status; and
  • provide protection for persons given refugee status pending their voluntary return to their country of origin or their resettlement in another country;
  • the country [must] meet certain human rights standards in providing that protection.

“They can only be taken to a country validly declared… to be a country that provides the access and the protections and meets the standards described above,” the High Court statement said.

ABC reporter Jane Norman who is on Christmas Island says clapping and cheering has been heard from inside the detention centre there.

A spokesman for Malaysia’s home affairs minister says the decision has come as a surprise and the government is waiting for details to see if the deal can be changed to make it legal.

‘Policy failure’

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison described the judgment as “another policy failure by an incompetent government”.

“I’ve been to Malaysia. I’ve seen the conditions under which asylum seekers would be living, and it was clear to me that the protections the Minister boldly claimed existed simply didn’t exist,” Mr Morrison said.

“The Minister should have know that. He’s been found out by the High Court, and as a result the Government’s asylum and border policy is a complete and utter mess.”

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the decision vindicates her party’s position on the deal.

“We knew when the Malaysian solution was first announced by the Government that it was wrong,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The big question was whether it was actually legal, and the decision today from the court not only is this harmful for children, not only is this expensive, but it’s now illegal.”

The refugee lawyer behind the legal challenge, David Manne, says his clients are very relieved.

“These people came here in fear for their lives and were very fearful of being sent to Malaysia. They feared they would be harmed,” Mr Manne said.

“The court has now ruled it would be unlawful to expel them to that type of situation.”

Ex-army captain sentenced to 10 years


source from dvb, 29 Aug 2011

Ex-army captain sentenced to 10 years thumbnail

Former Burmese Army captain Nay Myo Zin, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Friday under the Electronics Act in a special trial in a closed courtroom hearing in Insein Prison, Rangoon. He was initially detained in April of this year.

Nay Myo Zin’s lawyer Hla Myo Myint said his sentencing showed that the rule of law is yet to exist in the country;

“Nay Myo Zin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Electronics Act – this shows there is not yet a rule of law in the country,” Hla Myo Myint told DVB.

The former army captain had been volunteering for a blood donation group organised by National League for Democracy (NLD) members. He was arrested by police in early April with no warrant.

Follow his arrest, his family expressed fear that he was being tortured in his interrogation.

He was later charged under the Electronics Act for allegedly making contacts with Voice of America (VOA) news agency’s reporter Rodney Nyein (also known as) Thaung Nyein [who conducted radio talk shows with former army officials] and also taking part in an exile-political group known as Patriotic War Veterans of Burma and writing articles under pseudonyms Shwe Bann and Nyi Toe Nyein [on political blogs.]

“He was charged with the Electronics Act mainly for the reason that he, despite being an army official, wrote articles to discredit the army. We believed that this is a politically motivated charge and he was accused of writing something he actually didn’t. It is inappropriate to give him such a harsh punishment – he is also in poor health,” said Hla Myo Myint.

Nay Myo Zin’s younger brother Khin Maung Htwe said his brother’s sentencing is a discouragement to those who want to work in charities;

“We are now under a [civilian government] which claimed themselves to be clean. Now this just showed if they are really clean or not,” said Khin Maung Htwe.

Nay Myo Zin’s family and friends raised his case with UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana during his visit to Burma last week. Nay Myo Zin’s sentencing occurred after Quintana had left however.

UNHCR Malaysia reluctant to serve the cause of Genuine Rohingya Refugees


source from RARC blog, 26 Aug 2011

 

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is reluctant to serve the causes of genuine Rohingya refugees, but to those who can afford under table payment or who has legal passports from Burma or other countries.

Please find out the attached photo letter which issued by the National University Hospital of Malaysia that require at least RM 50,000.

Instead of taking needful initiative, the UNHCR support RM 200 medical cost the vulnerable soul.

Wikileaks: EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT ROHINGYA


source from

Viewing cable 04BRUSSELS4013, EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT ROHINGYA
BRUSSELS 004013

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL BG BM EUN USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT ROHINGYA
REFUGEES

¶1. (SBU) Summary. The European Commission (EC) is concerned
about the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,
including the lack of adequate educational opportunities for
refugee children. Those living outside official refugee
camps without official status are at greater risk. The EC
would provide significant funding if the GoB agreed to allow
the local integratation of the Rohingyas. End Summary.

¶2. (SBU) On 9/10, PRM Assistant met with EC officers — DG
RELEX Administrator for Southeast Asia and Uprooted Peoples
Thomas Gnocchi and DG RELEX Bangladesh desk officer Ana
Beatriz Martins — to discuss the Rohingya refugees. Martins
spoke at length about the living conditions in both the
official camps and the "unofficial" Teknaf camp. According
to Martins, conditions in the official camps are relatively
good. However, he noted that the exceedingly low levels of
education in the camps have become a focus of concern.
Gnocchi said that the Bangladeshi government requires lessons
to be taught in Burmese so as to keep the ties alive and
encourage future return. Since there are few teachers who
speak the required language, many refugee children are not
receiving satisfactory schooling and their future is in
jeopardy.

¶3. (SBU) The "unofficial" camp in Teknaf, on the other hand,
is facing more immediate difficulties and hardships. "The
living conditions in Teknaf," stated Martins, "are abysmal."
Unfortunately, the peculiarities surrounding their situation
merely serve to complicate their eligibility for aid. Many
of its residents have unknowingly lost their status as
refugees, often as a result of failed attempts to repatriate
to Rakhine State. Martins added that as a result the
Bangladeshi government recognizes them not as refugees, or
even as former refugees, but as illegal immigrants.

¶4. (SBU) With the help of the UNHCR, the EC is pushing for
the implementation of a self-sufficiency program that aims to
increase accessibility to educational and vocational
training. Thus far, the Bangladeshi government has neither
endorsed nor denounced this program. This is significant
considering the continued hard-line approach by the
government to the plight of these refugees. Gnocchi noted
that the Rohingyas, numbering 19,500 persons, comprise a
small fraction of the overall migration problem. He added
that Bangladesh has the capacity to absorb this rather small
group, but refuses to for fear of igniting a mass movement of
refugees. Martins acknowledged the legitimacy of such fears,
but stated that they could be avoided if a low profile was
maintained. Gnocchi added that the EC is willing to offer
significant development projects in the region if local
integration were accepted as an option by Bangladesh.

¶5. (SBU) In response to the current stagnation surrounding
the plight of these refugees, the EC is in the process of
redefining its vision for Bangladesh, according to Martins.
They plan to pursue deeper discussion on the issue with
Member States under the Dutch Presidency. Martins added that
the current turmoil plaguing the region both heightens this
need and frustrates any possibility of resolving the issue.
Martins and Gnocchi inquired about future coordination with
the U.S. on this issue.

Time not right for Thai push back


source from dvb news, 25 Aug 2011

Surapong Kongchantuk, vice chairman of the Thai National Human Rights Commission’s sub-committee on ethnic minorities, the stateless, migrant workers and displaced persons, has said now is not yet the right time to repatriate refugees from Burma.

Kongchantuk was responding to a remark recently made by the governor of Thailand’s Tak province Samart Loifah. He had issued an order for refugee camps situated along the border in the region to make lists of their population to pre-empt a send back to Burma.

Kongchantuk however told DVB that we have yet to see tangible improvements;

“We sent a list of procedures for the concerned [Thai] government departments regarding the repatriation – that it should be voluntary and that their native country must be in a ready-state to accept them back,” Kongchantuk said.

“To decide whether the native country is ready or not should not be based on claims by the [Burmese government] alone but also needs to be inspected and approved by a UN organisation such as the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). So far, the UNHCR is yet to make any inspection about the real situation,” he added.

“This is not a case between just two countries but also concerns the international community. The Tak governor’s decision is irrelevantly premature and is causing a panic among the refugees.”

Samart Loifa made the orders after President Thein Sein’s remark on 17 August, that Burmese nationals living abroad in exile were allowed to go back to their home country.

He told the media that he was happy for Burmese refugees, who were forced to flee their homes, that they were allowed to go back to Burma and expressed a belief that this would bring peace to the Thai-Burma border region.

Saw Po Dan, chairman of Nupo refugee camp however said they had not received any order from Loifa as yet;

“There is no official order yet. [Loifa] came around our camp a couple of times in the past but he didn’t come in [the camp] – he just hung around outside and talked with camp officials. There was no clear order as yet,” said Saw Po Dan.

There are nearly 150,000 refugees living in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Whilst commentators have welcomed what appears to be a relative softening of rhetoric from Naypyidaw, others have responded to invitations back and supposed offers of dialogue with some scepticism.

Far from a decrease in violence in the ethnic areas of Burma the past year has seen an escalation in fighting as the Burmese military has pursued greater incursions into Shan, Karen and Kachin areas.

The last of which has seen around 10,000 people internally displaced and the World Food Program commence delivering food aid to over 3,000 vulnerable people near Kachin state’s capital, Myitkina last week. 

 

Malaysia UNHCR Accused of Betraying Refugees


source from Irrawaddy news, 24 Aug 2011

In this photo taken on Dec. 3, 2008, a Burmese Rohingya refugee boy arrives on a bus for demonstration outside the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo: AP)

The Malaysia United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is accused of betraying refugees by conspiring with Putrajaya Immigration Office to take their fingerprints and send them back to their own countries, it has been claimed.

On Tuesday, several UNHCR-affiliated organizations in Malaysia instructed refugees to provide fingerprints at Putrajaya Immigration Office, claims Shwe Zin, a Burmese refugee living in Malaysia.

“I arrived at the immigration office in the morning and was made to queue up. Then when my turn came, I had my fingerprints and a photo taken. And then I was given a printed document written in Malay that said to go back to our own country,” said Shwe Zin.

Many registered refugees came to the immigration office to give their fingerprints but did not know the details of what was going on, she added.

Many refugees received a document entitled “Pulang Ke Negara Asal” which translates as “Returning Home,” “Leaving” or “Going back to native country.” However, others were registered and given an alternative document which allows them to stay in Malaysia.

“I think I made a mistake by giving my fingerprints. It is impossible for me to go back [to Burma],” said Shwe Zin, adding that UNHCR staff were present in the immigration office.

“The UNHCR is tricking us because they want to settle corruption dealings with refugee processes. I don’t know why some refugee receive different documents,” said Kyaw Htoo Aung from Malaysia, who works for worker affairs.

An official from Putrajaya Immigration Office in Malaysia refused to give further details when contacted by The Irrawaddy, but just said that it was an “enforcement event.”

Malaysia is currently running the 6P Program to tackle illegal migrant numbers in a bid to settle social problems and crime related to illegal foreigners. Although the Malaysia UNHCR was officially against the scheme, after Aug. 23 the organization is legally obliged to assist with the 6P registration.

UNHCR refugee card holder Myat Ko Ko sent a letter to UNHCR officials asking why the organization was not upfront about its involvement in the fingerprint campaign, and questioning its commitment to protecting international human rights and refugees affairs.

“As a result of the UNHCR and Malaysia [government] fingerprint program addressed to all the ethnic Burmese refugees in Malaysia, all of them are in trouble and the UNHCR should surely have given an announcement about it,” he wrote.

The Irrawaddy repeatedly tried to contact the UNHCR office in Malaysia but there was no reply.
 
Yan Naing Tun, the editor of weekly Kuala Lumpur journal Thuriya, said the action is taking place because of UNHCR corruption when dealing with processing refugee claims.

The Malaysia UNHCR has been accused of discriminating between refugees and corruptly selling resettlement registrations for profit, according to refugees in Malaysia.

“While I met with the Malaysian authorities, my friend told me not to give a thumbprint on the document when the [UNHCR] called us. It is an act of cheating. They made the plan in secret but the problem is now widely known,” said Yan Naing Tun.

Australia and Malaysia’s recent agreement to swap 800 asylum seekers who came to Australia for 4,000 refugees living in Malaysia was widely criticized by human rights groups, as Malaysia is not a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

The Malaysian government has cooperated with the UNHCR on humanitarian grounds since 1975 even though Malaysia has not signed the UN Convention Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Burmese refugees have since been sent to third countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.
 
According to the Malaysia UNHCR website, at the end of May 2011 there are some 94,400  refugees and asylum-seekers registered with their office. Of these, around 86,500, or 90 percent, are from Burma. That figure is split up into 35,600 Chins, 21,400 Rohingyas, 10,100 Burmese Muslims, 3,800 Mon and 3,400 Kachins or from other smaller ethnic minorities.

Factbox: Stateless groups around the world


source from reuters, 23 Aug 2011

Young Myanmar refugees from the Rohingya ethnic minority attend their English class in Kuala Lumpur in this August 16, 2011 file picture. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

Young Myanmar refugees from the Rohingya ethnic minority attend their English class in Kuala Lumpur in this August 16, 2011 file picture.

Aug 23 (AlertNet) – There are an estimated 12-15 million people worldwide who are not recognized as nationals by any country. On Thursday the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR will launch a campaign to highlight the plight of stateless people. Below are examples from around the world.

MYANMAR: The Rohingyas from western Myanmar have suffered a history of abuse. Unlike the majority population, they are Muslims of South Asian descent. In 1982 Myanmar passed a law which made it impossible for them to get full citizenship. Many fled to Bangladesh in 1991 and 1992 following a government crackdown. Today, an estimated 800,000 live in Myanmar, up to 300,000 in Bangladesh and many more have fled to Southeast Asia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Some end up sold into slavery on fishing boats and plantations.

KUWAIT: Many people among the nomadic Bedouin tribes failed to acquire citizenship when the country became independent in 1961. Their descendents are known as bedoun, which means “without” (nationality) in Arabic. It is estimated there are 93,000-180,000 Kuwaiti Bedoun in the country and many more outside. They are barred from free education, healthcare and many jobs. The government says they are illegal residents from other countries. They faced increasing hardship after the 1990-1991 Gulf War and many thousands who fled Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation were refused back after liberation.

KENYA: The Nubians have lived in Kenya for over 100 years but they are regularly denied national identity cards and passports which they need to work, vote, travel, own a mobile phone, open a bank account, attend university or enter government buildings. Nubians from Sudan first arrived in Kenya in the 19th century when they were recruited by the British to fight in East Africa. Decades of marginalization have led to desperate poverty. In March 2011, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child found Kenya in violation of the rights of Nubian children to nationality and protection against statelessness.

MALAYSIA: Tens of thousands of children in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo are stateless. They are the children of Indonesians and Filipinos who have migrated to Sabah to work, both legally and illegally, often in palm oil plantations. Without citizenship these children have no rights to education or healthcare. Many end up as child laborers. Others get involved in drugs and petty crime. Some parents do not register their children because they fear deportation or are not legally married. Others cannot afford the cost. Mass deportations mean some children get stranded without their parents.

IVORY COAST: During the 20th century, Ivory Coast encouraged millions of immigrants, particularly from Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana, to work on its coffee and cotton plantations. At least a quarter of the population is estimated to be of foreign descent. The issue of who is or is not Ivorian fueled the country’s 2002-03 civil war. Much of the protracted peace process was about registering northerners and putting them on the electoral list if they could prove at least one parent was Ivorian.

SYRIA: In 1962 many Kurds in the northeast were stripped of citizenship. New York-based group Human Rights Watch says the move was part of a plan to “Arabize” the resource-rich region. Today there are an estimated 300,000 stateless Kurds in Syria. Their rights to education, healthcare, employment, property ownership and travel are severely limited. In reaction to this year’s uprising in the country, President Bashar al-Assad promised to give nationality to many stateless Kurds, but it is not clear how many will benefit or whether any changes will last.

NEPAL: Official figures show 800,000 people do not have confirmed nationality and cannot access key services. However, the UNHCR believes the figure is far higher. Married women cannot get a citizenship certificate without the approval of their husband or father-in-law and women married to foreigners cannot pass citizenship to their children. The U.N. refugee agency fears a proposed new constitution could exacerbate statelessness. There is also a large stateless population from neighboring Bhutan, which expelled over 100,000 people of Nepali origin in the early 1990s after stripping them of citizenship. They are also refused citizenship in Nepal. Many have been resettled in the United States.

THAILAND: More than 540,000 people are stateless. Many are members of ethnic hill tribes such as the Yao, Hmong and Karen who live in the mountainous north on the border with Myanmar and Laos and have distinct languages and cultures. The government has refused to issue them ID cards or provide state services. This has left them economically vulnerable, especially to human trafficking.

EUROPE: The Roma, an ethnic group with origins in India, are concentrated largely in central and eastern Europe. An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 have no nationality. The break-up of former Czechoslovakia and former Yugoslavia caused enormous difficulties for them when new successor states claimed they belonged somewhere else. Many other Roma in Kosovo and Bosnia have become stateless due to mass displacements during wars. Roma families often do not register the birth of a child and do not hold official property titles, preferring to pass their houses to relatives informally. This makes it difficult to prove where they are from and leaves them very vulnerable.

ESTONIA/LATVIA: When the Soviet Union broke up, many ethnic Russians were stranded in the new Baltic states. They were defined as “non-citizens” even though they had not acquired Russian citizenship. In Estonia and Latvia, ethnic Russians have had trouble obtaining citizenship and are frequently discriminated against. The UNHCR says there are over 100,000 in Estonia and 326,900 in Latvia.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The government denies people of Haitian descent access to identity documents. This includes people whose grandparents were born in the Dominican Republic. The country has ignored a 2005 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which declared that the nation must extend full citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent.

(Sources: UNHCR, Refugees International, Forced Migration Review, Open Society, Irish Center For Human Rights)

(AlertNet is a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit www.trust.org/alertnet)

(Reporting by Emma Batha; Editing by Rebekah Curtis and Sonya Hepinstall)

‘Thais Tortured Us,’ Say Rescued Rohingya Boatpeople


source from Phuket Wan, 21 Aug 2011

Rohingya would-be-refugees on Phuket after arriving in a boat in February

Rohingya would-be-refugees on Phuket after arriving in a boat in February
Photo by phuketwan.com/file
 
PHUKET: Accusations that the Thai military mistreated Rohingya boatpeople this year in a shocking new ”pushback” have been made today in a Hong Kong newspaper, quoting survivors in India.The fresh allegations go one step further than reports of the notorious 2008-2009 incidents, claiming that captive Rohingya were tortured in Thailand over five days in January.

Today’s report in the South China Morning Post newspaper quotes a Rohingya as saying that before being towed out to sea and cast adrift in a boat with no engine, “The soldiers beat us badly with wooden batons.”They forced us to go nude and stay in seawater for more than five hours every day. Using cigarette lighters, the Thai soldiers burned the beards of some of us.”

Reporter Shaikh Azizur Rhaman in Calcutta spoke by telephone to several of the 91 Rohingya who were rescued by Indian authorities on February 5.

The boatpeople are now being held in a jail in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, between Phuket and India.

Accusations of torture by the Thai military come as mystery surrounds the policy of Thailand’s new government towards the Rohingya, a Muslim minority denied citizenship in their Burmese homeland.

Phuketwan revealed on Friday that Rohingya boatpeople who have been held on Phuket and in other parts of Thailand now appear to be being ”repatriated,” but their destination has not been revealed.

The covert process leaves many questions unanswered. Today’s revelation of a fresh ”pushback” applies pressure on the new Thai government to provide comprehensive answers.

Governments in Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and India have failed to find a solution to the issue of the stateless Rohingya since Phuketwan journalists, working with the South China Morning Post, first revealed the secret ”pushbacks” from Thailand in January 2009.

Today’s claims are likely to provide the newly elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra with an international test of its human rights policies.

Rohingya told the Post that on January 13 they were intercepted by the Thai Navy off the coast near Phuket. They said the group was held in detention for five days, before being towed far out to sea.

“We were given around 250kg of rice, 5kg of dry fish and some vegetables, and some packets of charcoal when we were left at sea,” said Sheikh Montaz, 38, who told the Post he came from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

“They gave us only about 100 litres of water. We cried for more water. They did not care.

“We had no matches to light our oven. We just kept praying to Allah to keep us alive.”

After more than two weeks adrift, the men were picked up by the Indian coastguard and taken to Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, joining 190 other Rohingya boatpeople who have been in detention since early 2009.

Over 2 million foreigners registered under 6P programme: Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin


source from malaymail, 19 August 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 2,040,709 foreign workers and illegal immigrants have been registered under the 6P programme as at 8am Thursday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said.

He said of the total, 936,732 were legal workers while 1,103,977 were illegal immigrants.

"It is an unexpected number in the context of registration because after this, we still have to carry out the process of legalisation, amnesty, supervision and enforcement.

"So, I would like to call on those who have yet to register to do so as soon as possible," he told reporters after breaking fast with the Home Ministry’s staff here last night.

He also refuted the allegation that those who had registered would be deported to their countries of origin and described the allegation as an attempt to sabotage the 6P programme.

"Some people accused that there is a problem with the biometric registration system…it is indeed a baseless allegation because if there’s a problem, the number of people registered would not reach two million," he said.

Hishammuddin said registered illegal immigrants from Indonesia made up the highest number at 551,268, followed by Bangladesh with 241,538.

"This means that the cooperation we have with the Indonesian and the Bangladesh governments had succeeded and I would like to thank the representatives of the two governments and ensure that we will continue to work closely with them," he said.

The minister said the biometric registration process had to be carried out as the government did not know the exact number of foreigners in the country.

"The two million people are legal workers and illegal immigrants who have registered voluntarily before we carry out the legalisation and enforcement processes and it is possible that the number will increase," he said.

Earlier, Hishammuddin also gave away hampers and "duit raya" (cash) to orphans in Klang Valley.

Phuket Boatpeople Trucked Out as Others Are Loaded into Longtails and ‘Given 4000 Baht to Go’


source from Phuket Wan, 19 Aug 2011

Rohingya boatpeople: questions over whether this is a new policy

Rohingya boatpeople: questions over whether this is a new policy
Photo by phuketwan.com/file

PHUKET: A group of Rohingha boatpeople imprisoned on Phuket since January were trucked to the border port of Ranong today – a day after other would-be-refugees appeared to have been repatriated to Burma in highly unusual circumstances.

The 33 men and boys from Phuket had been kept in cramped conditions in cells at Phuket Immigration headquarters in Phuket City since coming ashore in Phuket in February. Two were said to have difficulty standing up straight when they were loaded onto a police truck today.

All were reported to be pale after more than six months imprisoned with little or no sunlight and exercise.

Their trip north marks what could be a new approach by the incoming Pheu Thai government to a long-standing international issue. Whether it has been done with the knowledge of other members of Asean is not clear.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, come from Arakan in north Burma but are not recognised as having citizenship rights in that country. Thailand’s policy over the past two-and-a-half years has varied from pushing back the unwanted arrivals in unseaworthy vessels to keeping them in detention indefinitely, without hope of being set free.

But yesterday, Phuketwan has learned, a group of 70 Rohingya were placed in three longtails in Ranong, north of Phuket, each given 4000 baht by a person who said she represented a non-government aid organisation, and allowed to leave Thailand.

Where they go may depend on the people steering the boats. The departure of the three vessels, followed by the four-hour road trip north today by the group who had been captive in Phuket, comes as the new Pheu Thai Government takes over from the Democrat-led government.

What’s not plain is whether the Burmese Government is now accepting back Rohingya boatpeople, or whether the three vessels that set off from the Customs pier at Ranong in Thailand yesterday were doing so without the knowledge of the Burmese government.

Adding to the mystery was a report that a woman who handed 4000 baht to each of the 70 boatpeople as they boarded the longtails said that she was a representative from the Jesuit Refugee Service, a highly-regarded Catholic aid group.

A spokesperson for another aid group associated with the Rohingya said it would be uncharacteristic for the Jesuit Refugee Service to be involved in a set of circumstances that appears to leave the Rohingya open to people-trafficking.

However, changes in many long-standing policies are reported to be taking place in Burma as the junta in control and a newly-elected Parliament appease international critics.

And Thailand just this week did gain a new and inexperienced Foreign Minister, Dr Surapong Tovijakchaiyakul, who has already been criticised for his rapid approval of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s application to make a trip to Japan.

What Phuketwan can say with certainty is that the Immigration department’s detention of Rohingya in numbers has strained the budgets of local holding centres. Funding allocations do not account for having large groups of people held prisoner for long periods.

Whether the sudden shift of captive Rohingya to Ranong and into longtail boats is a change in policy or a convenient but short-term solution to Thailand’s Rohingya problem will only become clear as the United Nations and other organisations ask the new government for an explanation of what is going on.

%d bloggers like this: