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.

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