With the purported agenda of busting people smuggling and combating human trafficking, the Malaysian Government, has reiterated its determination to revive the scandalous refugee swap deal despite the Australian High Court’s finding which declared the deal illegal.
Given the findings of the Australian High Court which found that the Minister in charge was unable to satisfy the Court that Malaysia had met three important criteria that would deem it safe for asylum seekers, the Malaysian Prime Minister’s insistence that refugees are treated very well rings hollow.The safe third country criteria are that the country must
a. be legally bound by international law or its own domestic law to: provide access for asylum seekers to effective procedures for assessing their need for protection;
b. provide protection for asylum seekers pending determination of their refugee status; and
c. provide protection for persons given refugee status pending their voluntary return to their country of origin or their resettlement in another country.
The Australian High court also stated that in addition to the above criteria the Migration Act requires that the country meet certain human rights standards in providing that protection.
Lawyers for Liberty maintain that as long as Malaysia remains non-committal to any form of meaningful protection to asylum seekers in Malaysia, as evinced by legal framework- such illegal deals should never be endorsed.
To start with, Malaysia has yet to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention – which would declare Malaysia’s commitment to recognizing fundamental legal rights of asylum seekers. Further to date, refugees and asylum seekers are not allowed to work, frequently vulnerable to arrests and held in deplorable conditions of detention and if found guilty and convicted under Section 6 of the Immigration Act, are liable to be punished with whipping.
Renuka T Bala
Lawyers for Liberty