An Increase of 14-fold Refugee Population for the past 10-year provokes government’s stereotype

Today, in commemoration of the World Refugee Day, SUARAM and Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) strongly urge the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol to promote, respect and provide coherence protection framework that upholds their principle human rights and dignity in the country.

In light with the alarming global trend of forced displacement[1], In Malaysia, statistics as of April 2013 recorded by UNHCR has shown an increase of almost 14-fold (or 1390%) from 5, 311 refugees and asylum seekers registered in year 2003 to 103,010 people (2013).[2] Meanwhile, Myanmar origin remains the largest proportion of recognized refugees and asylum seekers with share of 92% (absolute number 94, 760) from the total numbers.

It is stated that despite Malaysia’s reluctance to ratify 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the number of vulnerable people seeking sanctuary in the country escalated overtime. This also provokes government’s stereotype over the implication of having ratify the convention will encourage the new influx of refugees. Such argument is highly irresponsible for a country that have strong role on United Nations Human Rights Council hence shall not be an ultimate determinant factor for government’s continuous refusal to such instruments.

Countries around the world have taken more progressive position using regional solidarity and burden sharing with multi party arrangement with United Nations and the humanitarian and rights base agencies to manage the influx. We strongly state that refugee and asylum seeker phenomena is not a country concern but it’s an important regional and international phenomena that impose an obligation on nations states.

Refugees and asylum seekers are classified as illegal immigrants by the Immigration Act 1959/63 and can be arrested, detained and sentenced, which usually involves judicial caning by the authorities. Discrimination, Intimidation and threats of violence against refugees and asylum seekers continue unabated in some pockets of our communities. This can been seen in the latest act by government, where the Malaysian government has sternly warned Myanmar communities in Kuala Lumpur that they could face deportation back to Myanmar in the wake of recent violence between some Myanmar communities in Kuala Lumpur.

SUARAM and LFL also urge the Malaysian government to halt all form of arbitrary deportation of Myanmar refugees especially those from the Rohingya community as they are refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. SUARAM and LFL want to make it clear that such force deportation is wrong and unacceptable in a constitutional democracy as well as a violation of international customary laws.

We call upon the Malaysian government, as well as other governments across the world, to re-affirm the values upon which international agreements of refugee protection are based. It is also a time for all sectors of society to reflect on their role, to examine, form and strengthen partnerships on how best to find lasting solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
Released by,
Nalini Elumalai
Executive Director
Eric Paulsen
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty