Malaysia Crackdown: No Time to Wait for Action
14 February 2012: (Op-Ed) Tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are at undue risk for arrest in the upcoming raids all over Malaysia. Saturday afternoon, February 11, at the beautiful Central Market in Kota Raya downtown Kuala Lumpur, while many tourists and locals shopped, more than 100 people (including illegal migrant workers, asylum seekers, and refugees) were arrested for illegally working.
Just twenty minutes after the arrests were finished one looking at the market would never even have known that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Onlookers must be unaware of the situation involving many of the arrested and the at risk individuals for arrest.
Approximately 40 of the arrested people are refugees and asylum seekers that came to Malaysia trying to escape the violations of their basic human rights by the Myanmar government. These refugees and asylum seekers didn’t come to Malaysia to work like many of the immigrants that the ministry recently asked to register under the Illegal Immigrant Comprehensive Settlement Programme (6P). The 6P doesn’t pertain to the refugees or asylum seekers. The refugees and asylum seekers are simply waiting to be registered with UNHCR and then resettled. The refugees and asylum seekers are more than willing to register with the Malaysian Ministry too, which was stated (at least twice in The Star) would become available early January 2012. No such registration became available. This registration would have then provided proof of status and exclusion from arrest for these individuals and those at risk in the upcoming raids by Rela, Immigration, and the Malaysian Police. The “Big Sweep” starts this Thursday.
Without the means to support oneself or family, tens of thousands are left to wait. At this time, there is no way to register with UNHCR or the Malaysian government leaving the refugees without proof of status, not allowed to legally work, dormant in their quest for resettlement, and vulnerable to arrest possibly leading to detainment for up to 6 months for refugees (who are registered with UNHCR) and possibly longer for asylum seekers. All of the arrested are currently being detained at the KLIA Camp.
Action must be taken to stop the wasting of more precious time, resources, and human energy on this undirected attack on innocent people.
By Kimberly McNeelan