Malaysia Must Treat Refugees With Dignity And End Their Continued Persecution

Kiran Kaur
Advocacy Officer
Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)

On Wednesday 20 April, greater than 500 refugees have been reported to have escaped a detention camp in Kedah. Six of them, together with girls and youngsters, died in a collision when attempting to cross a freeway to flee the camp. 

READ MORE: Six Rohingyas Died After Fleeing Immigration Detention Centre In Kedah

In response to the deadly incident and claims that the squalid circumstances of the refugee camp motivated the escape, Home Minister Dato’ Seri Hamzah bin Zainudin mentioned that the extended detention of refugees ought to be a ‘lesson’ for different refugees to not come to Malaysia and that refugees are ‘treated well’ in Malaysia. He added they need to depart Malaysia and return to their countries and requested the general public to inform authorities if they’re encountered to allow them to be arrested and brought again to detention centres.

These appalling statements ship the message that refugees ought to be persecuted for trying to achieve safety from egregious abuse, violence, and different violations of basic rights of their residence states. This reinforces the damaging narrative that at-risk people ought to return to nations the place their lives are endangered, and is a  bleak reminder of the inhumane therapy refugees expertise in Malaysia.  

While greater than 180,000 refugees have come to Malaysia in hopes of discovering security, Malaysia will not be a celebration to the 1951 Convention within the Status of Refugees and refugees and asylum seekers don’t maintain ‘legal’ standing. This lack of a protecting framework not solely heightens their vulnerability to immigration offences however will increase their threat of different crimes that they fled from of their residence nations, equivalent to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that disproportionately impacts girls and youngsters out and in of detention centres.

(Credit: Malay Mail)

These vulnerabilities are compounded by the truth that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not had entry to refugee camps in Malaysia all through the pandemic, since 2019. This has resulted within the extended detainment of refugees in these camps, who as individuals of concern shouldn’t be positioned in such unsafe circumstances. 

Detaining girls and youngsters refugees in these camps, particularly, is in direct violation of Malaysia’s worldwide obligations as circumstances of detention centres severely exacerbate the danger of SGBV. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) committee’s concluding observations to Malaysia have known as for options to detention for refugee and asylum-seeking girls and ladies, and measures to make sure they’re shielded from all types of gendered violence. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the federal government is obligated to make sure that a baby who’s a refugee can solely be detained as a measure of final resort and for the shortest acceptable time period. 

It is unacceptable for the Malaysian authorities to show a blind eye to the inhumane actuality of the scenario refugees are topic to, beneath the guise that they’re handled ‘well’ as a result of they’re supplied with the naked minimal of meals and shelter. Refugees usually are not criminals for escaping life-threatening circumstances, and should not be handled as such. 

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) urges the Malaysian authorities to take steps grounded in humanitarian rules and in compliance with worldwide obligations to handle the regarding scenario impacting refugees out and in of detention camps. Refugees should not be detained indefinitely and should be granted freedom of motion with the power to contribute to the financial system. It can be crucial for businesses equivalent to UNHCR to urgently be granted entry to those camps to mitigate the extended detainment of individuals of concern.

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