Rohingyan Refugees in Malaysia and UNHCR’s Operation Plan-2012

by Theng,

UNHCR country operations plan-2012 states it has continued to encourage the Malaysian government to become a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, while the gov indicates to consider this proposal. In this subject, unsignatory country Malaysia has to host refugees and asylum-seekers continuously or refugees may remain to face uncertainty.

In the report, UNHCR also fingers some degree of integration enjoyed by several stateless groups and the Filipino refugees in Sabah. Beside, UNHCR admits the fact that Malaysian law makes no distinction between refugees and undocumented migrants that causes vulnerable to arrest, detention, prosecution, whipping and deportation.

The report covered about refugees face risk on daily basis and highlighted for the first time in its country operation plan that Rohingyans from eastern Burma are considered both refugees and stateless in its report.

Because of Malaysia hosts the large migrant population and needy of foreign workers, UNHCR points that "there may also be opportunities to improve conditions for refugees, bringing them to a level similar to those of legal migrants". Nevertheless, whether UNHCR takes it as a part of foster step in order to pave local integration. Unfortunately, failure of recent program of ‘amnesty’ (legalization of illegal immigrants) could be more possibly for this fact.

Operation and Resettlement:
Despite UNHCR has committed to register undocumented refugees including newly arrivals, undertake RSD and issue identity documents, it’s primitive for Rohingya cases. As, the report received from area based Rohingyan leader showed only about hundred of unregistered Rohingyans were registered per month for last year 2011. While the number of registration of priority groups was obviously higher many times. Therefore the number of undocumented Rohingyans remained high since 2006.

UNHCR never came to intervene to prevent from arrest or taking to custody. Interference will be met months after during in detentions if information was sent. It’s true that its interference has been improved in detention cases from the mid of year 2009. But it took two to eight months to get release of refugee detainees. And there are still highest number of undocumented Rohingyan detainees in farer detention centres where UNHCR rarely accessed.

As we know, UNHCR always seek resettlement for the refugee population. Its Operation Plan also states- "UNHCR will promote fair and balanced resettlement opportunities for various ethnic groups from Myanmar and other countries".
But we could find whether it’s sideous, when Rohingyans are considered both refugees and stateless. If we check back how many number of Rohingya refugees and other refugees were resettled in the past decade.
Incompatibly, UNHCR still states in its plan that "it will advocate with the Government for temporary, local solutions in the form of residence and work permits for groups of Muslim refugees from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State".

There are about hundred of education sectors run for refugee children all the over country. The number of attendants is around 35 to 60 kids in each sector. It’s less than 10% compare to total number of refugee children. Primarily, there were less than 36 informal sectors until 2009 which were established by refugee community itself. However, the UNHCR’s report misinforms by stating that ’85 per cent of refugee children aged 6-11 is enrolled in primary school’.

Survival and aid:
Except from very few number of refugees, there are no refugee received financial or accommodation assistance from UNHCR. Historically, it just assist in extension of the documents. Yet, almost all of refugees have to risk their lives by working 3D jobs and living in jungles and mountains. But surprisingly, the report misquoted as- "their livelihoods are improved".

There are some families receive regular financial assistance from UNHCR. It’s short term assistance and generally terminated after one to 3 months and the amount is less than US$ 300 per family. Estimated number of families those receive financial assistance is about 200 families where Rohingya family numbered about 30. Providing such assistance would be more constrained year by year. Because its plan states- "depending on the funding available, UNHCR will prioritize its activities based on the most significant protection risks faced by the population of concern".


Previously, UNHCR has pushed the Rohingya plus Muslim refugee population into the host by marginalizing from resettlement quota . Now it upholds to enhance the host country to sign the Refugee Conventions and to allow the refugees right to work so it could able to push the entire number of unwanted refugees. Meanwhile, informal and insincere engagement of UNHCR threats against the host. Nevertheless, they are not going to be happened. In this manner, at the end the ramification will be like now ‘expliotion of their rights only’.

The Operation Plan states, "international NGOs are unable to operate in the country but national NGOs have little capacity to support asylum-seekers and refugees.. Their capacity to expand remains restricted".
What kind of support it is? Practically, UNHCR doesn’t want to expand its regular exercises which are only path to find solution for Burma’s first stateless refugees hereupon it wants unrelated other INGOs to take over it. It’s not new to know about restriction over the activities of national or local NGOs because they are trying to do irregular activities in unsignatory country.

Current number of Rohingya population in Malaysia is ranked on the third, albeit total about 50,000 of non-Rohingyan refugees had been resettled to 3rd countries from Malaysia in the past decade. And the flow of Rohingyans into Malaysia is still much lower compare to the other refugee groups. So, referring them as ‘largest group and big flow’, is practically inaccurate.

It’s not sad to know about how ‘Rohingya people’ are marginalized and unwanted even in exile while ongoing anti-Rohingya campaigns both in home and exile have been growing day by day.

Some experts hope that unity among Rohingyans could only find solution for their plights. But UNHCR alike Burmese government creates disunity among Rohingyans in order not to confront for their rights.

The first exhibition of ‘Stateless Rohingya…Running on empty’ will be launched from March 27-April 1st, 2012. And the following questions will be raised probably. When and how their solution could be found? What kind of dimension or solution or excuses were given in the past decades?

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  • mohamad ayub  On June 2, 2012 at 6:09 am

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  • mohamad ayub  On June 5, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Asalammualikum sy nama mohamad ayub bin mohamad boshiu mak romakatu saya number 0174433644/0105751677 saya oriung maynmar tarama kase

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