Thursday, August 25, 2011

‘What is UNHCR doing?’

Stephanie Sta Maria | August 25, 2011
Is UNHCR in cohorts with the Malaysian government to deport asylum seekers, asks a refugee.
PETALING JAYA: A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cardholder has sent a letter to the UN Refugee Agency begging them to provide clear and timely information to the refugees regarding the Malaysian government’s 6P amnesty programme.

The confused Burmese refugee was among the 10,000 who turned up in Putrajaya on Tuesday after the Home Ministry issued a 11th hour order that they had to register themselves under the 6P amnesty programme.

The 6P program was originally intended to register only migrant workers but the Home Ministry issued an overnight order on Monday for refugee card holders under the UNHCR to register themselves.

The ill-prepared immigration officials were however forced to turn most of the crowd away as they only had the capacity to register 2,500 people a day.

Recounting their harrowing experience at the Immigration office in Putrajaya on Tuesday, the Burmese refugee said: “Yesterday at (the Immigration department) the Malaysian police and Rela beat some of the refugees including children, mothers and the elderly due to the mismanagement of UNHCR Malaysia.

“And when they got their papers from Immigration mostly their papers read “Tujuan: Pulang Ke Negara Asal (Purpose: Return to Home Country)”.”

The puzzled UNHCR refugee cardholder now wants to know the agency’s status in protecting the refugees.
“What is the UNHCR’s role in protecting refugees against the wicked tool of the Immigration Department?
“Does UNHCR itself put Burmese refugees in Malaysia into Malaysian jail?”

He also questioned if the whole registration under 6P amnesty programme was in fact a plot between UNHCR and the Malaysian Immigration to deport them.

“Are these refugees exiled by plots of UNCHR and the Malaysian Immigration?”

“What is the role of UNHCR in the international human rights and refugees affairs? Does UNHCR also smear itself at the stage of world peace?” he asked.

End 6P registration now
Last night Tenaganita, an NGO working with migrant workers, women and children, issued a media statement condemning this revelation which it said has sparked great uncertainty and fear among the refugees.

The NGO highlighted the fact that Malaysia came under fire just two days ago for deporting 11 Uighurs back to China where they would face ethnic torture and persecution.

“We are deeply concerned that there is no clear direction from UNHCR as to why that “Purpose” is on the slip,” said Tenaganita’s executive director, Irene Fernandez.

“UNHCR when contacted this morning said it was still trying to verify the statement. Even as a lead agency it is unclear and unable to provide proper information to the refugee community.”

Fernandez called for the registration of refugees under the 6P program to be immediately halted as their status required that they be treated under a different framework.

“One dimension of the 6P program is deportation which cannot be applied to refugees,” she said.

“The lack of information and consultation on the impact of the program on refugees has resulted in increasing the community’s anxiety and stress.”

She then took the Home Ministry to task for its irresponsibility and lack of clear decisions which has resulted in a program “riddled with questions and uncertainties”.

“The ministry has only given responses that reflect arrogance of power and not good governance,” she stated. “The same sporadic decisions are now reflected in the registration of refugees with no consultation, planning and processes set in place.”

Fernandez also pushed the ministry to explain and clarify the objectives, procedures and policy for the registration of refugees and its impact on their continued stay in Malaysia.

“If there is any form of registration by the government, it must be to increase the protection of the rights of refugees,” she added.

“Right now this registration exercise has further reinforced how inefficient and unplanned the program has been since it began in July.”

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