Tenaganita executive director Irene Fernandez (left) talks to journalists outside the Australia embassy in Kuala Lumpur on May 25, 2011. — PHOTO: AFP


KUALA LUMPUR – RIGHTS activists stepped up their battle on Wednesday against Australia’s decision to send 800 boatpeople to Malaysia, claiming the deal threatens the migrants’ safety.

Representatives from five rights groups met Australian High Commission diplomats to hand over a protest memorandum, urging Canberra to drop the controversial hardline scheme.

Australia plans to deport the boatpeople in return for accepting 4,000 refugees processed by the UN refugee agency in Malaysia over the next four years.

‘All organisations are firm on the position that this deal is a fundamental human rights violation that cannot be accepted,’ said Irene Fernandez, executive director of migrant and refugee advocacy group Tenaganita.

Some 90,000 refugees, mainly from Myanmar, live in Malaysia – which is not party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

They are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and await resettlement to a third country, but do not have legal status and activists say they are regularly arrested, detained and even caned for immigration offences.

-AFP, May 25, 2011