Thursday, July 28, 2011

l : An Alert for Modern Day Exploitation of Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia

By Theng,
Diaspora moment would be arrived soon for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. Rohingyans do not aware what are going to be happen and what are going to be paved in the future. Rohingyans do not aware the keys which would exploit their plights.

Some Rohingya leaders would be responsible for it. Rohingyans themselves did not know yet who are they? What status they attained?
Nepotism among Rohingya leaders and their selfishness are the other keys to exploit the desperate Rohingya refugees. Their objectives to grab the forth coming Rohingya projects and domination of leadership are ridiculous.
The due courses of Rohingyans are uneducated and consent-less, it’s make good opportunity to utilize them wisely. From the beginning, the Rohingyans and those selfish-leaders never come to know about sort of recognition given to Rohingya refugees as of ‘prima-facie refugees’, why added to beneficiary group and paved the so call durable local-solution or repatriation to Burma. According to UNHCR’s Country Operation Plan, previous they received letters were Rohingya Letters in another name rather than Temporary Protection Letters-TPL. Later they received cards up to now are not mandated refugee cards. Written in their cards is being different from the other mandated refugee cards. Therefore they would not be even protected from ‘refoulement’.

That was the main reasons for why many Rohingya refugees confronted for their rights through entering into UNHCR compound five times in 2002 and once in 2003. All of them were officially handed over to police by their refugee agency-UNHCR. Again, immigration officials handed over them to people smugglers under deportation process because no country willing to accept them. Apart from these, a group of the other six Rohingya refugees who took shelter at U.S. Embassy on 17 June 2003, were released by UNHCR’s given commitment of resettlement to third country after two and half years imprisoned in Sugai Buloh Jail. Among these groups, only the first group about 24 Rohingyans had been eventually resettled to third countries between 2003 and 2005. The rest others including refugee activists, former UNHCR’s interpreters are still left to uncertainty. One of the former interpreter Mr Din Tinshwe did find his own way to Europe and now leaving in Belgium.

That was why area based Rohingya representatives corporately with umbrella Burmese opposition groups had come to submit memorandums at UNHCR in 2007, 2009 respectively and several hundreds Rohingyas had gone to find more safer place by open risky boats. These made a little opportunity to inform their hidden situations. These made their custody-UNHCR unavoidably came to view to lift its miginalization agenda through passing dozens for resettlement between 2009 and 2010, and registration of some thousands undocumented Rohingya refugees from the mid 2009 to 2010. However,such exercises are being a show and it doesn’t not mean implemented fully until the office grand them as mandated refugees and access equal in resettlement quota like other refugees.

Since last year, UNHCR bounded with the Future Global Network-FGN and added as an implementing partner. FGN was founded by Mr Azam after he was expelled from president post of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia-ABIM @ Malay Islamic Youth Force-MIYF. ABIM was the organization which received to handle extension of Rohingya Letters from 2002 to 2004. But he continuously embraced Mr Sawmiullah as a representative of the whole Rohingya population. Because Mr Sawmillah was former president of Rohingya Information Centre-RIC and one of responsible person for suspension of Imm-13 process during Aug 2006. 

On the result of Mr Sawmiullah expelled from RIC, he able to corporate more in FGN and recruited some corrupt Rohingya religious leaders. Later FGN utilized them to explore in collection of funds through forming another Rohingya religious orgnazation call Majalis Ulama Rohingya-MUR and lately founded another one call United Islam Rohingya Orgniazation for Development-UNIROD in Penang. Huge amounts or bank-cheques were passed to FGN and the rest smaller amounts were used for own.

MUR was took over by a Rohingya religious teacher- Ali Ahmed during 2007 and 2008. But after his gone for resettlement at Sweden relating to "Series of Refugees for Sale" documentary, MUR has able to restore its mal-objectives again. One of them Mv Islam also chairperson of UNIROD was fled to Bangladesh with RM-200,000 funds last year.

FGN had also hold several meeting with some acting Rohingya activists and Rohingya students in its office. An analyst on FGN says FGN road map is "2020-Wawasan" which give false hope for new Rohingya generations that they could be integrated or absorbed through malaization after the old generation gone.
These corrupt religious leaders boasting yet that their FGN has collected funds about one million Malaysian currency and they will share it for Rohingya refugees who will underpin them. They also announced in several meetings with Rohingyas in Penang and Gombak that they are prepared for Jihad in order to take over Arakan. But it could not be happen until Malaysian government support their agenda. The Sail found their agenda is only artificial propaganda to gain supports of some Islamic NGOs. However, the vast majority of Rohingyans worry for adoption and introduction of such extremist-mind when the world is fighting to eliminate extremism.
Malaysian Special Branch-IPK has followed long time behind them. But IPK never dare to inquiry because they have close-ties with high ranking local religious leaders.

Rohingyans have yet long way to go as the office has already accepted the idea of FGN thus the UNHCR’s operation plan stated that “one of the challenges for Malaysia as it aspires to be a fully developed country by 2020 is that it will need to assume its global responsibility and one of those is to help the situation of refugees.”
It is new mockery plan to exploit and exclude Rohingya refugees. So, there is no doubt that vulnerable Rohingya refugees and their children have to languish and wrangle up to 2020 in legal limbo once their concern quarter misruled over their plights.

Therefore UNHCR must not follow unscrupulous guideline of FGN. UNHCR must listen towards its refugees and represent their voices. In principle, it is refugees to choose whether safe to stay. They should be freely accessed like other refugees. UNHCR must pave equal appropriate way for Rohingya refugees since durable tempo-solution was repeatedly failed. UNHCR must take lessons from Borneo stateless refugees who were displaced twice and wrangled several. UNHCR must acknowledge persecutions and oppressions faced by Rohingyans in home and subjections again in the host. UNHCR is also witnessed of several occasions faced by refugees in Malaysia when rights of even Malaysian are not guaranteed. In this situation, UNHCR must not exploit their plights by reviving the same unworkable dimension and push them as people of concern to Malaysia.

Stakeholders, operation partners and implementing partners should learn from recent impacts on thousands of Malaysians rally for rights and the Au-Mas swap deal agreement which undermine your rights voices . Which is an example of not to push the other particularly Rohingya refugees into such uncertainty. Not to brand easily them as a close group and not to encouragement beyond the Malaysian government.
Pushing towards Malaysia is over and more than treble numbers than Rohingyans had been able to resettle shortly while Rohingyans are await. It is time for Rohingyans to get equal assessment. When Malaysia is not in position to fulfil their needy, Malaysia government must act decisively and play fair role to advocate to find permanent solution for Rohingya refugees. Malaysian government must aware every key engage for exploitation..
Source: The Sail

Malaysia refugees threaten Aus trips

REFUGEES in Malaysia are threatening to pay people smugglers to take them to Australia, saying they'll be treated better when they're sent back under the asylum seeker swap deal.

Human-rights organisations have criticised the deal, saying it could actually act as a pull factor for boat people and creates a two-tier refugee system.

Under the $292 million agreement, signed in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, the next 800 asylum seekers intercepted in Australia will be transferred to Malaysia within 72 hours, after which they will be held in transit facilities for up to 45 days.

Once processed, they will be moved into the community and given work rights, as well as access to education and health care.

But the more than 90,000 refugees already in Malaysia do not have the same benefits, while many must work illegally to provide for themselves and their families.

Amnesty International says the agreement with Malaysia will not deter asylum seekers from taking boats to Australia and could actually act as a pull factor.

"The Australian government is under a false impression if they view this agreement as a deterrent to refugees and asylum seekers from taking the journey to Australia," a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Malaysia said on Thursday.

"Both governments need to craft a better regional solution, and this includes a long-term solution identifying why people seek refuge."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Thursday downplayed the possibility of people taking boats to Australia in order to qualify for more rights and better conditions in Malaysia.

"I think it's a big call. I think people come to Australia because they want to live in Australia," Mr Bowen said.
"Suggesting that they'll get on a boat for some other reason I think is a brave call."

However, the criticisms from Amnesty International have been reinforced by refugees in Kuala Lumpur, many of whom have been waiting for years to be resettled in another country, with some now threatening to take a boat to Australia.

Ishma, a Tamil asylum seeker who has been in Malaysia for five years, said she was angry that people who pay people smugglers would be given more rights than those who don't.

"If they're going to do that for the 800, let them do it for us, let them give them money for us. We don't do the wrong thing," she said.

"If things happen like that we also will go illegally and go there and come back."
The comments came despite the agreement being sold as a way to break the people smugglers' business model.

The government has said the 800 asylum seekers sent to Malaysia will not get any preferential treatment in terms of resettlement.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the government had "failed to match their policy detail with their rhetoric on border protection".

"No doubt more holes will emerge, as the deal was conceived in desperation and panic," Mr Morrison said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

70% of asylum seekers, refugees suffer from some mental illness: NGO

KUALA LUMPUR: Seventy percent of men and women asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia suffer symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress due to human trafficking, forced labour and unemployment, according to a non-governmental organisation.

The figure was three times higher than in any normal population, said the Dr Xavier Pereira, the director of Health Equity and Initiatives (HEI).

He said the finding was based on a study done in March on 1,074 asylum seekers and refugees, aged between 18 to 70 years.

"Both men and women are equally affected, especially those who are unemployed, involved in human trafficking and forced labour," he told reporters after the National Consultation of the Health Dimensions of Human Trafficking and Forced Labour, here on Tuesday.

He said that the study also showed that symptoms of extreme anxiety was more evident than both depression and stress.

He added that the level of anxiety among asylum seekers were higher than the refugees. - Bernama

Source: The Star Malaysia

Monday, July 25, 2011

Government abandons principles over Malaysia deal

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has visited Kuala Lumpur to sign the Malaysian solution and now he and Prime Minister Julia Gillard are promoting it.

I have criticised Labor's resurrection of the Pacific Solution deal since it was announced in May, saying it's a quick political fix to a domestic problem. The deal betrays all that Labor allegedly stands for. Its own policy rejects offshore processing by requiring the humane treatment of asylum seekers on Australian soil. Until now, the party was also against dealing with a country that has not signed the Refugee Convention. This deal mocks Labor's criticism of the former Howard government's measures.

Let's not forget what Mr Bowen's predecessor, Chris Evans, once said of the Pacific Solution in 2008: "The Pacific solution was a cynical, costly and ultimately unsuccessful exercise." Except now the ALP has resurrected that measure in all but name. The only difference today is that the Gillard government won't send people to Nauru.

The Greens were opposed to the Pacific Solution, and 10 years later, we're against the Malaysian solution. We oppose exporting our humanity and obligations to other countries. This new deal is not in Australia's short-term or long-term interests and simply undermines our principles and values of a fair go and compassion.

It will involve Australia spending nearly $300 million to try making an example of desperate asylum seekers. The Gillard government could take 4000 assessed refugees from Malaysia in a humanitarian gesture without 800 people having to risk their lives on boats first.

It is also not a long-term answer to a regional problem. By cutting side deals, the Gillard government has shown the Asia Pacific region it does not take the Bali process seriously. This process remains a regional forum to try addressing a regional problem. But rather than working with our neighbours, the federal government looked around to forge bilateral deals. First with East Timor, then Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. The East Timor idea fell apart, and the PNG proposal to reactivate the Manus Island facility is stalled, for now, while that country deals with internal political problems.

On June 14, Mr Bowen said Nauru was a failure that "did not break the business model, it broke the people". But Australia's detention centres are still breaking people today. Witness the suicides and self-harm incidents at centres including Villawood. Indeed, there's about 100 people on hunger strike at the Scherger centre at Weipa today. There were protests and fires on Christmas Island and roof-top protests in Darwin last week. A man who spent eight months in Woomera in 2001 told Adelaide media yesterday that he still has nightmares about his experiences.

Last month, the Prime Minister described Nauru as a "fundamentally weaker plan". Did she mean that her Malaysia deal is much harsher? I am sceptical that there will be basic bottom line protection for the deportees such as non-refoulement.  I am also wary about the guarantees of freedom from arbitrary detention and physical punishment. Indeed, the 800 asylum seekers will be accessing health and education services that are run by private companies, not the Malaysian government. The UNHCR is not a signatory to this deal and there have been no changes to Malaysian laws.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has yet to end the legal limbo for the more than 500 people who have arrived on Christmas Island since the May 7 announcement. We question whether the government will fulfil its promise to now assess their claims in Australia, after spending the past 11 weeks saying they would not set foot in Australia.

We can't vote against the Malaysia deal, because there's no legislation the government needs to present to parliament. It's using the same laws the former Howard government created after the Tampa. Nearly 10 years since that ship arrived, the language and measures the Australian government is using today suggests there's been little change in how Australia treats some of world's most vulnerable people.

Australia-Malaysia Agreement Undermine International Laws

The Federal Government’s asylum seeker deal with Malaysia has failed to win support from human rights advocates.

The swap deal, first announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen nearly three months ago, means Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia and accept 4,000 verified refugees in return.
Key points of the agreement:
  • Those sent to Malaysia will be given rights to work, health care and education, unlike the 90,000 refugees already there
  • Asylum seekers already on Christmas Island will be processed in Australia, but any arrivals from midnight tonight will come under the new arrangement
  • Once the scheme is fully up and running, they will be transferred to Malaysia within 72 hours
  • Transferred asylum seekers will receive no preferential treatment in the processing of their claims
Ms Gillard says it is designed to send a message that asylum seekers should not risk their lives in the hope of having their claims processed in Australia.

She says the agreement addresses concerns held by Australian officials that the 90,000 asylum seekers already in Malaysia do not have access to health and education services.

“Those sent to Malaysia will be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with human rights,” she said.
“They will not be subject to any of the penalties imposed on illegal entrants – that means they will not be arrested and will not be caned.”

Arrivals will be subject to pre-transfer assessments to ensure fitness and suitability for transfer.
But the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission says she has serious concerns about the Government’s deal.

Catherine Branson QC says the safeguards contained in the agreement kick in too late and she doubts their effectiveness.

Ms Branson says she is particularly worried that people will be assessed for vulnerability only after they have been sent to Malaysia.

“We have in mind, children, particularly unaccompanied, people who’ve been subject to torture and trauma, people who might need mental health or physical health care,” she said.

“As we understand in the agreement their assessment for vulnerability will take place after they arrive in Malaysia. We’re very strongly of the view it should take place before they leave Australia.”

The Commission says despite the intended safeguards in the deal, there remains a risk that those who are sent to Malaysia will be mistreated.

“Vulnerable people should not be being moved around the globe from place to place,” she said.
“They should be assessed quickly for vulnerability and once they are assessed the appropriate care and support should be put in place. We can be much more confident that we can do it here and it would spare them unnecessary trips.”


And the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees says the deal is inconsistent with the practice of allowing asylum seekers to be processed in the country in which they arrive.

The UNHCR says the preference has always been an arrangement which would allow asylum seekers arriving into Australian territory to be processed in Australia.

Nevertheless, they say the final agreement is an improvement from earlier proposals.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the deal fails to guarantee the human rights of people moved offshore.

“Australia is a signatory to the refugee convention, and yet what we see here under this arrangement is Australia doing everything it can to shirk that responsibility and at the exorbitant cost to Australian taxpayers,” she said.

She says the deal is short on detail.

“This deal is still very unclear as to what types of protections will be offered to these people that we expel to Malaysia,” she said.

“The details should have been in the agreement. Verbal assurances mean nothing in this circumstance.”
But the Immigration Minister says the transferred refugees will carry identification ensuring they will be allowed to work within Malaysia.

“The arrangement is very clear. And the people transferred from Australian to Malaysia will have identification documents which make it clear that they are permitted to be in Malaysia, that the law in relation to illegal migrants does not apply to them,” Mr Bowen said.

“And the Malaysian government has issued clear instructions to its law enforcement authorities that these people are transferred with the agreement of the Malaysian government and they are to be dealt with accordingly. “

Policy failure

The plan has also drawn the ire of the other side of politics, with Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison saying it is an admission of policy failure.

“This Government clearly believes their policies are wrong and they’ve sought to change those policies,” he said.

Mr Morrison has dismissed the Government’s claims the deal is a regional solution to people smuggling.
“This is a one-off bilateral deal with a use-by date of 800 transferees, now if everybody who had turned up since this deal was announced (was included), this deal would almost be over before it began,” he said.
“Australia will bear all the costs associated with this arrangement, every last cent.”

But Ms Gillard says the deal would send a strong warning.

“This is a ground-breaking agreement which is designed to smash the business model of people smugglers,” she said.

And Mr Bowen has defended the Government’s decision to process the 500 asylum seekers who have arrive since the deal was announced in Australia.

The Government had previously maintained those asylum seekers would be processed offshore, but Mr Bowen says problems in Papua New Guinea forced the Government to change its mind.

“We have had to adjust our position there. That was an important thing to say and it was the appropriate thing to say with the information we had available to us at that time,” he said.

“It’s now clear that not only Malaysia, but the discussions we’ve been in with Papua New Guinea have taken longer than it might have been expected they would, therefore the only appropriate and reasonable thing to do is to process those people in Australia.”

Mr Bowen says he only decided the to process the earlier arrivals in Australia shortly before he left for Kuala Lumpur.

Ms Gillard says the deal will be accompanied by a communications strategy aimed at ensuring asylum seekers know they will be sent to Malaysia if they try to come to Australia.

Source: ABC News, July 25, 2011

Burma Junta is 100 Times Worse than What the Kadafi

by ASN,
Ruler of Burma is expressible as 100 times worse than what the Kadafi of Libya. Yet, no mechanism can force the dictator to abide by domestic or intl norms and the system routed a threat to intl peace and security. UN has to truly act to bring democratic changes in Burma. At least UN must achieve to halt military regime's brutalities. As well as failure occurred in taking action. It shows the UN's system is not acted according its roles.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shadow over refugee swap deal

Amnesty International opposes the refugee swap deal between Malaysia and Australia , which is due to be signed on Monday ,because it is not transparent.

PETALING JAYA: Unanswered questions and a lack of transparency has cast a showdow over the refugee swap deal due to be signed by Malaysia and Australia on Monday.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said that not much is known of the agreement’s details, which will see 800 refugees being sent to Malaysia.

“As of now, it is very disappointing to note that both governments have yet to be transparent on the details of the agreement. Many questions still remain on the fate of the 800 asylum seekers that are being sent to Malaysia,” said the group’s executive director Nora Murat .

Murat argued that Malaysia does not formally recognise or acknowledge the existence of refugees, and tends to lump them together with asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

As such, refugees inbound to Malaysia were likely to be interred in detention camps, subjecting them to mistreatment and a wide range of discrimination.

Quoting a June 2010 Amnesty International report, Murat said that refugees interred in Malaysia’s detention camps were not given proper health care, sufficient food or even clean drinking water.

Refugees, it added, were also not given the legal right to work or any due assistance from the Malaysian government, forcing them to work in dangerous and exploitative conditions.

In May, Malaysia and Australia announced that 800 boat people arriving in Australia would be transferred to Malaysia after the signing of the swap agreement.

In return, Australia agreed to resettle 4,000 refugees already residing in Malaysia.

According to both governments, the deal is one-time project aimed at combating human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

This intention did not rest well with Amnesty International and many other NGOs, who criticised the plan.
“Human beings are not cattle that can be transported or dealt with,” Murat said.

She added that refugees and asylum seekers needed to be given equal treatment. Governments in turn, Murat said, needed to look for a better solution, especially through placing an importance in human rights.

Australia and Malaysia to sign refugee pact on Monday

The Star Online > Nation
Saturday July 23, 2011
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and Australia will go ahead and sign their refugee and asylum seeker exchange programme.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein will sign on behalf of the Malaysian Government and Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will represent his country.

The deal on Monday will see 4,000 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-registered asylum seekers in Malaysia resettled in Austra- lia.
Australia, in turn, will send 800 unprocessed asylum seekers to Malaysia for refugee assessment.

The process is expected to take four years to complete and will be funded by Australia.
"For Malaysia, the agreement will be beneficial because it will help us deal with a long-standing problem of refugees who continue to come to our country in search of asylum when we have limited means to help them," a local source told Reuters.

The Sydney Morning Herald, citing unnamed sources, said the deal had the support of the United Nations, which had originally been concerned that the agreement could breach international refugee rights.

Australia currently has more than 6,000 asylum seekers in detention, originating from countries like Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Malaysia, on the other hand, saw 25,600 refugees registering with the UNHCR last year to seek asylum, the highest among all countries where the refugee agency has offices.

They bring the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers here to 93,600 mostly from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan according to UNHCR's office in Malaysia.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rohingya Refugees need Urgent Protection

Date: 20/07/2011

Rohingya Refugees need Urgent Protection


We at BROUK would like to express our serious concern about the attack on Rohingya refugees in Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh on 16th July.


A group of villagers from Fawliyapara, in the refugee camp area of Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh, armed with wood, pickaxes, Bamboo sticks, swords, knives and bamboo ears, attacked both registered and undocumented refugees in and around Kutupalong Refugees Camp killing at least one refugee and injuring twenty others, including women. Many refugees' huts were destroyed.


These vulnerable Burmese nationals have 'well founded fear of persecution' in their homeland, and thus they are refugees who deserve international protection.


Unfortunately, bulks of refugees, except 28,000, still remained unregistered and, as such, they are passing their lives without adequate protection.


The Rohingyas are stateless asylum seekers. They are victims of systematic, persistent and widespread human rights violations, including denial of citizenship rights, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, education, marriage and religion, forced labour, rape, land confiscation, arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings and extortion on daily basis.


Since refugees are on the soil of Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh should protect them from all troubles, attacks and intimidation by the law-enforcement agencies and non-state actors, in the interest of law and order situation and humanity.


In this connection, we at BROUK call on the Government of Bangladesh


1. To give adequate protection to the Rohingya refugees, and improve law and order situation in the refugee camps and surrounding area;


2. To recognise all Rohingya asylum seekers in Bangladesh as refugees, and provide them with basic necessities like food, shelter and healthcare in cooperation with the UNHCR and international communities.


3. To find out a lasting and durable solution to the long standing Rohingya problem. Meanwhile, we urge upon UN, OIC, EU, ASEAN, and international community to exercise their good offices for a permanent solution.


Maung Tun Khin


Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.

Contact: +447888714866

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Malaysian solution

  • Reporter: James Thomas
  • Broadcast Date: July 13, 2011

People smugglers are laughing at the Government's proposed Malaysian Solution, saying it's doomed to sink, as they prepare to send thousands more asylum seekers to our shores.

The Government's bold plan to stop the boats involves taking 4000 proven refugees from Malaysia over four years.

But the Malaysian Solution appears to have some very big problems, with strong reason to believe the boats will still come, refugees will continue suffering, and the queue will still be jumped.

The Government's central argument for the Malaysia deal is that it will crush the human traffickers. However, one reputed people smuggler has stated that it is 'business as usual'.

Despite the horror of being captured mid-journey, and in spite of the dangers, the demand for smuggler's services in Malaysia remains strong.

Not even the prospect of being turned away by Australia will deter the desperate.

Our Government claims returned refugees will be forced to join the back of the orderly queue. However, there is nothing orderly in the life of an asylum seeker in Malaysia. It is a life with no rights.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention. This means 93,000 refugees and asylum seekers in this country are officially unrecognised.

They live in the shadows, on the run from paramilitary forces called RELA, who have the power to hunt them down and round them up like dogs, arresting them for being undocumented workers, or for not having visas.

But that's the point - refugees don't have visas. They've fled their countries in fear of their lives, only to arrive in Malaysia, where they are often locked up in places normally reserved for hardened criminals.

Malaysia stands to gain $300 million from Australia, should the refugee deal go ahead. The human rights of the returned asylum seekers is crucial to the United Nations support of the deal.

Everywhere we travelled in Malaysia, we met refugees who were caning victims - a practice recognised by United Nations conventions as torture.

Our government says the 800 asylum seekers we send to Malaysia will be protected.

"The agreements indicate respect for fundamental human rights, and clearly that indicates no caning," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said.

"Well with the best will in the world, I just don't see how those guarantees can mean something on the ground," said Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison.

Visiting refugee communities in Malaysia last week, Scott Morrison said it's fantasy for our Government to expect Malaysia to treat the asylum seekers we send them humanely, when all evidence on the ground is to the contrary.

Their vulnerabilities are there every day, and the greatest anxieties that mental health workers talk about here is fear. Fear of being taken away, fear of being harassed. Some don't even let their children outside to play, living a life of complete vulnerability, where legals protections appear to be completely arbitrary.

That's what refugee Aiesha was told by the two men who brutally raped her. The men were police officers.

Aiesha had committed no crime. She was on her way to the shops when she was stopped by the police and asked for her documents. Being a refugee, she didn't have any. Her story is a common one in Malaysia.

Some refugees are sold into sexual slavery, others work eighteen-hour days at the markets. Their wage is $1 dollar a day, and with no money to pay rent, living conditions are cramped and unhygienic.

Patrick is one of the 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers who hides behind Malaysia's veneer of modernity, progress and democracy. He is tired of being viewed as a criminal.

"We come here not because (it's) our choice, but because circumstances compel us," he said.

Patrick's life is one of pain, and he has the scars to prove it.

The threat of their boat being turned around, or even the threat of dying at sea, really means nothing to these people.

Patrick's father was murdered by the Burmese regime, and he has scars all over his body as a result of what happened to him. When soldiers wanted to acquire some of his land, he refused, and so they beat him within an inch of his life. He fled to Malaysia, but his life here is awful, and now he wants to get on a boat to go to Australia. In Australia some people call this man and his children queue jumpers. Go figure.

Rafiq is another so-called queue jumper. One year ago he was arrested and detained as a result of his attempts to get out of Malaysia and head to Australia. But he's unperturbed, and planning another trip. It will cost between $10,000 - $15,000 for the boat, and $1000 for the agent. The costs will be spread between seven or eight families, or about 30 people.

He knows about the Malaysia Solution, and he knows the oats maybe turned back, but he doesn't care. He says his life is so miserable here, and it's such an awful existence, he'll risk anything to get on that boat and head to Australia.

The truth is, Rafiq may never have needed to board a boat if Australia was to substantially increase its intake of refugees from the so-called queue.

For all the talk of doing our share, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2010 Global Trends Report, Australia has one of the least generous intakes of refugees in the developed world.

Relative to our wealth or per capita GDP Germany, the UK, France, USA, Canada, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Norway all take more refugees than us.

Just 2.9 per cent of Australia's migration intake came from boat arrivals in 2009-10.

Our government is about to spend an extra $300 million dollars in an attempt to stop less than three per cent of our migration intake.

It is unlikely the government will listen to Scott Morrison. But if you listen to those the Malaysia Solution is aimed at, the message is clear.

They need a safe place to live, and the Malaysia solution won't stop them boarding a boat bound for Australia.

Tell us what you think of Today Tonight's exclusive investigation here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Advice for UNHCR card holders regarding the “6P” programme announced by the Government of Malaysia

by Unhcr Malaysia on Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:30pm
The "6P" programme is a proposed system to manage migrants in general in Malaysia. There have been media announcements that refugees could be affected by this, and UNHCR is liaising with the Government of Malaysia on any areas that could affect refugees, and will continue to be involved in any issues related to the protection of refugees in this regard.
However, at this time, UNHCR advises all UNHCR card holders to wait further information and instruction from UNHCR on the "6P" programme. UNHCR will not assign any companies or agents to speak to refugees on our behalf, and we will not assign any companies or agents to collect money from refugees on our behalf. All services provided by UNHCR for refugees are free. Therefore, do not make payments to any companies or agents claiming to be involved in the "6P" programme, and do not directly approach any agencies at this time to register under the "6P" programme. 
Should you have further questions or concerns contact UNHCR directly. 
In Bahasa Malaysia
Nasihat bagi pemegang kad UNHCR tentang program "6P" yang diumumkan oleh Kerajaan Malaysia. 
Program "6P" adalah satu cadangan sistem untuk menguruskan pendatang asing di Malaysia. Terdapat pengumuman di media yang orang pelarian juga mungkin terlibat dengan program ini. Pihak UNHCR berurusan dengan Kerajaan Malaysia dalam mana-mana hal berkenaan orang pelarian, dan akan terus terlibat dengan apa-apa isu berkaitan perlindungan terhadap orang pelarian dalam hal ini. 
Pada waktu ini, pihak UNHCR menasihatkan semua pemegang kad UNHCR untuk tunggu maklumat dan arahan seterusnya dari UNHCR tentang program "6P" ini. UNHCR tidak akan memberi tugas kepada mana-mana syarikat atau agen untuk bercakap dengan orang pelarian bagi pihak UNHCR, dan kami tidak akan memberi tugas kepada mana-mana syarikat atau agen untuk mengutip duit dari orang pelarian bagi pihak UNHCR. Semua perkhidmatan UNHCR bagi orang pelarian adalah percuma. 
 Oleh itu, jangan membuat apa-apa bayaran kepada syarikat atau agen yang mendakwa sebagai terlibat dalam program "6P", dan jangan hubungi mana-mana agensi pada waktu ini untuk berdaftar di bawah program "6P" ini.
Jika ada apa-apa soalan atau kebimbangan, hubungi UNHCR.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

Mohammed Rohim and his rickshaw
Published on : 7 July 2011 - 11:00am | By Dheera Sujan (Photo: Dheera Sujan)

He is a good looking man – or he would be, if it wasn't for the hollowness of his eyes, that makes you think he looks at the world in a different, darker way than most other people.

Mohammed Rohim (28) does indeed have reason to view the world differently. After all, he is a Rohingya in Bangladesh. That means that he's had about a tough a life as it's possible to have on this earth.

Mohammed was born in Rakhine state in western Myanmar. As a Rohingya, he belongs to the poorest group in an impoverished country. The predominantly Muslim Rohingya are arguably the worst treated of all of the country's ethnic minorities. They need official permits to marry, own land or move to another area. They are often recruited as unpaid porters, used as human mine detectors and heavily taxed in crops and money. So badly have they been treated, that for years, they've been escaping across the river to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Escaping for love, freedom and a better future
Mohammed Rohim's family was poor, so he couldn't pay the requisite bribes when the authorities came looking for slave labour. For at least ten days every month, he was forced to work for nothing at the local army camp. Mohammed was in love with a girl who lived next door. The feelings were reciprocated, but the permit they needed to get married, cost an exorbitant 160,000 kyat (150 euro). So the young couple, decided to flee to Bangladesh. "When I left, my parents were crying," he says, "so crying. They knew we'd never meet again."

Rohingya who make the decision to leave their village know they're burning their bridges. They are struck off the local registers and become, to all intent and purposes, officially invisible in Myanmar; non people, with no rights to land, to papers, to birth certificates for their children.

The couple had a difficult trip. They paid 10,000 kyat each to stow away on a cattle barge. Every time the barge pulled up to a stop at the river bank, the couple had to hide in the latrine; the trip lasted 13 hours.

When they arrived in Teknaf, in souther Bangladesh, they entered the illegal shadowland of the some 200,000-500,000 illegal Rohingya living in the country, always on the alert for police, open to exploitation, and forced to bribe their way through daily life.

Mohammed got a job on a fishing boat where for a 9 hour day, he earnt 80 cents. One day while fishing, he lost a net worth 6000 taka (60 euros). The owner threatened him, so he borrowed money bonding himself in labour to pay it back. Over the next three years, he worked as a daily labourer, as a gardener, in shrimp growing, whatever he could find to feed his growing family.

Life is no easier
Mohammed has been in Bangladesh now for 4 years and has three children, but life is not getting any easier. These days, he pulls rickshaws. ferrying people around town at a fast trot, through the heat and the monsoon rains. He pays a daily rent of 60 taka for the rickshaw and earns around 200 or 270 taka (2 – 2.70 euro) on a good day. He sleeps in the rickshaw, eats two simple meals a day, and the rest of his earnings go to feed his family, currently living in a hut made of mud and plastic sheets in Kutapalong camp. It's an unregistered camp which means that no one gets any food assistance at all. It's too far from Cox's Bazaar where he works, so Mohammed takes a bus there once a week to bring them money and to make repairs to the hut which is often washed away after a heavy rain.

Despite the chiseled muscle of his shoulders and calves, his jutting cheekbones and spare frame are a testament to an underlying malnourishment. His face shows an exhaustion out of keeping with a 28 year old man at the prime of his life.

An act of human kindness
As we near the end of the interview, I ask him whether in all these years in Bangladesh, he's ever been shown an act of kindness. He thinks for a while and replies, "a politician came once and gave each family 7 kilos of rice and some soap".

"No," I say to him, "I'm not talking of political gestures – I mean, has anyone looked you in the eyes, and recognized that you have suffered a lot, and just been kind to you as a fellow human being?"

I see him searching for an answer to a question he's clearly never thought about before. I can see he wants to answer me, but the question simply defeats him. Finally he says with an almost apologetic shrug, "just that politician and the rice."

And what does Mohammed dream of? What is it that he wants most in the world? "If they would just stop the forced labour, and if I could find work, I would go home. This is not my country, not my place. I only want a life."

Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Refugees struggle after huts destroyed by heavy winds

Azara (alias) Lal Buri, the fifty six year-old wife of the late Abdullah, continues to struggle to survive in the Kutupalong makeshift camp since her hut, built with bushes and plastic, was destroyed by heavy winds on May 20.

"I and my 90 year-old mother, Gul Somba, lived in a small hut without support from any INGO (international Non-government organization), the UNHCR or Bangladesh authority, nearly three years near Kutupalong official (refugee)camp," she told Kaladan News in an interview.

"Fifteen years ago, my husband died from fever in Buthidaung, area No.2, of Arakan State. I have two sons. They live with their family members outside the camp so they can work," she said.

"I take care of us by begging for rice and if I don't beg each day, I have to starve. Today, I could not cook rice in the morning," she said.

"I can't build the hut again because I have no money to buy plastic and bamboo. Now, I am starving because I can't go to outside the hut to beg and also my body is in pain. (She was injured when the hut was destroyed.) It makes me cry because rainy season is coming, so I may have to stay in the bushes," Lal Buri said.

Many huts were destroyed by heavy rain and wind at that time, and like Lal Buri, most refugees can't afford to rebuild.

Another refugee, Md. Ismail, a 28 year-old daily laborer said his hut was also destroyed by heavy rain and winds. He can't afford to rebuild his home either.

"We haven't received any help to build our huts from any quarter yet," one community member said. He said refugees who are widows, like Lal Buri, have even more difficulty to rebuild their huts.

"We have been living in the Kutupalong makeshift over three years, but we don't get any support from the UNHCR," he said.

"We get only basic medical treatment from MSF (Holland) and also get sanitation from Hunger for Action (ACF)."

A school teacher said his family all crowd into a very small hut, struggling to survive without support from any aid agency because the family is still not recognized officially as refugees by the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities.

"We are very afraid about the coming rainy season because refugee children will face pneumonia and odima."

He also said that over 40,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees live in and around the Kutuplaong makeshift, camp without legal status.

"So, we would like to request the UNHCR and Bangladesh authority rebuild our huts as soon as possible."

Similarly, a refugee community leader from Leda camp said the situation at Leda Tal is awful as well because many huts there also suffered damage during the heavy rain and wind.

"The huts are no longer strong or sturdy as they are all at least three years old. They were built only with bamboo and plastic sheets," he said.

"Now, some shacks (huts) have collapsed completely and the refugees fear for their lives while they are sleeping during the night. We fear for our young children if heavy wind blows in the daytime or night. Every shack is getting rain water inside when the rain falls."

There are more than 12,000 Rohingya refugees in the camp. The Leda Refugee Camp is managed by Muslim Aid UK, which also provides healthcare programs. The NGO 'Solidarity' is providing sanitation in the camp.
The refugees work for their survival at different jobs. Some refugee women are facing sexual harassment by locals while collecting firewood for their survival and to support their family, from a forest far from the camp.

The widow, Lal Buri, is urging the international community and UNHCR to help her and all the refugees, before it's too late.

Date: July 8, 2011

Source: Burma News International

UN human rights expert to vist Myanmar next week

United Nations, Feb 11 (PTI)

UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana will visit Myanmar next week, hoping to meet pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as the military junta prepares to hold national polls this year.

The coalition for a free Burma protest outside the Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong on February 5, 2010. AFPThis will be Quintana's third trip to Myanmar. Previously, permission to meet Suu Kyi was denied to him.The Myanmar is slated to hold its first election in over two decades, this year.

"I hope that my request to the government to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be granted this time.

"It would be important for me to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year's landmark elections," said Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, 64, has been under detention for most of the past two past decades.She is the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the national elections in 1990.

Last year, Suu Kyi, was sentenced to 18 months of house detention for violating terms of her detention after an uninvited American swam ashore to her house where she was already being held.

The verdict will prevent her from contesting the elections scheduled in 2010.
The US and other Western nations have been imposing sanctions because of Myanmar's refusal to release Suu Kyi, and the military junta is accused of human rights violations in the country.

In the past, China and Russia have vetoed Security Council resolutions against Myanmar.

During his two-day visit to Myanmar in July, UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, made three demands on Myanmar leadership - to release 2,200 political prisoners, hold free and fair elections in 2010 and resume a dialogue between government and opposition.

On this trip, the special Rapporteur will also travel to Northern Rakhine state, home to thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group.

In his previous report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, Ojea Quintana, recommends the repeal of a discriminatory legislation in Northern Rakhine State where many Muslims have been deprived of citizenship, movement and fundamental freedoms.

"Muslim communities compromise serious human rights violations," he said, previously.

A lawyer from Argentina and a human rights expert, Ojea Quintana, was appointed special Rapporteur in May 2008, and will report his findings to the Human Rights Council in March.


Rohingya refugee camp washed out

Published: 6 July 2011
Rohingya refugee camp washed out thumbnail
Flimsy huts spawl over the hillside at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh (Joseph Allchin)

Days of heavy rain in eastern Bangladesh have sparked panic in the unofficial Kutupalong camp that houses tens of thousands of refugees from Burma, with flimsy huts destroyed and food shortages worsening.

A Kutupalong camp committee member told the Bangladesh-based Kaladan Press Network yesterday that several huts had been washed out, while many others had lost roofs.

Concerns have also mounted about the ability of the refugees in the camp, none of whom are recognised by the UN's refugee agency and thus receive no UN assistance, to provide food for themselves, with their normal means of making money scuppered by the extreme weather conditions.

Kutupalong houses thousands of refugees from the Rohingya minority, which have fled their native Arakan state in western Burma following systematic persecution by the Burmese government, which refuses to grant them citizenship rights.

Estimates of the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh range from 200,000 to 400,000 – wary of creating a pull-factor for more refugees, the Bangladeshi government has allowed only 28,000 to be registered by the UN.

In June, Bangladesh's food minister, Abdur Razzaque, warned Western nations against pressuring Dhaka to register the remaining Rohingya, the vast majority of whom have sought refuge in Cox's Bazar, where as in the rest of Bangladesh, overcrowding and scarcity of resources are serious problems.

Physicians for Human Rights estimate that the acute malnutrition rate for children in Kutapalong, one of the main unofficial Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, is 18.2 percent. This is defined by being 60 percent or less of the median average weight for the age group, which the World Health Organisation suggests will result in a 30 to 50 percent mortality rate amongst the inflicted.

The Holland chapter of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) provides medical assistance to the Kutupalong camp, but complaints continually surface that aid is in short supply. As well as the infrastructural problems that rainy season brings, the wet weather conditions also fuel illnesses such pneumonia and malaria.

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

Phuket's Boatpeople Still Being Held in Inhumane Conditions

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bad Weather Forces Halt to Construction of Foreign Projects in Arakan

Sittwe: Some foreign projects in western Burma's Arakan State have been put on hold temporarily due to heavy rain and flash flooding hitting the area during the current rain season.

The projects with construction currently halted due to the bad weather include the seaport in the capital Sittwe that is being built by India as a component of the "Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project," and and the Madae deep seaport in Kyaukpru that is being built in China as a component of the dual oil and gas pipeline project in the state.

"The construction of Sittwe Port has stopped for the rainy season because it is very difficult for the construction as well as for bringing the materials to the site by vessels due to heavy rains, flash floods and rising sea level in the season", said a local contractor who supplies rocks and gravel for the construction of the port.


Sittwe Seaport

U Aung Mra Kyaw, an MP of the Peoples' Parliament from Sittwe, also confirmed the seaport construction was halted due to the difficulty with the rainy season.

"The Indian construction team is still being found in Sittwe and it is likely they have to halt their construction work due to inconveniences in the season. The heavy showers are continuing in our region and I heard that half of the landfill for the port construction has been already worn away by the rough flow of the Kaladan River", said U Aung Mra Kyaw.

An engineer from the inland water transport also said that there are now difficulties for the ships to enter into the Sittwe Port as the worn-away landfill from the port has settled in the mouth of the river.

A local resident said the construction work on the deep seaport being built for China on Madae Island in Kyaukpru has also stopped for three months of the rainy season.


Madae Seaport in Kyauk Pru

"The construction work for the port has been suspended for three months until the end of the rainy season because the weather is very rough in the season here and it is very difficult for the local boats to supply raw materials for the construction", said the resident.

He said that the local workers have also returned to their home with the close of their jobs in the season.

The Madae deep seaport is being constructed by the CNPC Southeast Asia Pipeline Company Ltd and is targeted to be complete by May 2013. The port will be used as terminus for the oil carriers from Middle East and Africa for supplying crude oil as well as local offshore gas through the pipelines from the port to China.

Source: Narinjara