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Burmese refugees in Malaysia

Individual Documents

Title: Malaysia's unwanted (video)
Date of publication: 21 November 2014
Description/subject: With refugees [including Rohingya] at risk of abuse and exploitation in Malaysia, 101 East investigates if those in charge are doing enough....Forbidden from working or sending their children to school, it is a fragile existence for many as they struggle to survive in society's shadows. In this extensive investigation, complete with undercover filming, 101 East exposes the hidden, fear-filled world refugees inhabit in Malaysia and asks, who is going to help them?..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: AlJazeera (101 East)
Format/size: Adobe Flash (26 minutes)
Date of entry/update: 22 November 2014

Title: Equal Only in Name - The Human Rights of Stateless Rohingya in Malaysia
Date of publication: October 2014
Description/subject: "...Stateless, discriminated against, treated unequally, excluded and persecuted, the Rohingya are one of the most vulnerable communities in the world. Originating from Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled the country in search of safety, security and prosperity - conditions that remain elusive to the majority who have made lives for themselves upon new shores. The human rights challenges that the Rohingya face originate in Myanmar, but are also prevalent in other countries. Discrimination and unequal treatment are central to the human rights violations suffered by the Rohingya. This report is part of a series which provides an overview and analysis of the human rights situation of stateless Rohingya in various countries. The purpose of this report is to highlight and analyse the discrimination and inequality faced by the Rohingya in Malaysia and to recommend steps aimed at combating discrimination and promoting equality of the Rohingya. The report explores long - recognised human rights problems, and also seeks to shed light upon some less well - known patterns of discrimination against the Rohingya...This report comprises four parts. Part 1 sets out the conceptual framework which has guided the authors’ work and the research methodology. It then provides an overview of the Rohingya and concludes with an analysis of some of the common trends, themes and challenges that have emerged from the research in all project countries. Part 2 provides an overview and analysis of the international, regional and national legal and policy framework relevant to the discrimination, inequality and related human rights violations and challenges faced by the Rohingya in Malaysia. Part 3 focuses on patterns of discrimination and inequality affecting the Rohingya in Malaysia. It is important to note that Part 3 focuses on a few select i ssues, and is not a comprehensive overview of all forms of discrimination and inequality limiting the enjoyment of human rights for the Rohingya in Malaysia. Part 4 presents conclusions and recommendations..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Equal Rights Trust
Format/size: pdf (2.07MB)
Date of entry/update: 27 November 2014

Title: Malaysia: Invest in Solutions for Refugees
Date of publication: 19 April 2011
Description/subject: Introduction: "Malaysia has taken significant steps forward in improving refugee rights. In the past year, there have been no reported attempts to deport Burmese refugees to the border with Thailand and a decrease in immigration raids and arrests of registered refugees. But these advances have not yet been codified into written government policy, leaving refugees considered “illegal migrants” and subject to arrest and detention. The Government of Malaysia should build on this progress by setting up a system of residence and work permits for refugees. The international community should mobilize additional funds for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and non-governmental agencies to leverage this opportunity to improve refugee rights."
Author/creator: Melanie Teff and Lynn Yoshikawa
Language: English
Source/publisher: Refugees International
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2011

Title: Asia’s new boat people
Date of publication: 22 April 2008
Description/subject: "...Thousands of stateless Rohingyas are leaving Burma and Bangladesh, dreaming of a better life in Malaysia...On 25 November 2007, a trawler and two ferry boats carrying some 240 Rohingyas being smuggled to Malaysia sank in the Bay of Bengal. About 80 survived; the rest drowned. A week later, another boat sank, allegedly fired at by the Burmese Navy. 150 are believed to have perished. Many Rohingyas are ready to embark on a risky sea journey in order to escape oppression, discrimination and dire poverty..."
Author/creator: Chris Lewa
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: "Forced Migration Review" No. 30
Format/size: pdf (English, 426K; Burmese, 196K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR30Burmese/40-42.pdf
Date of entry/update: 30 November 2008

Title: Without refuge: Chin refugees in India and Malaysia
Date of publication: 22 April 2008
Description/subject: Most Chin refugees have never set foot in a refugee camp; they live as urban and undocumented refugees in India and Malaysia.
Author/creator: Amy Alexander
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: "Forced Migration Review" No. 30
Format/size: pdf (English, 334K; Burmese, 194K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR30Burmese/36-37.pdf
Date of entry/update: 30 November 2008

Title: Desperate Conditions: Update on Malaysia as Burma Refuge
Date of publication: March 2008
Description/subject: "Nine months after the research which produced the Project Maje report "We Built This City: Workers from Burma at Risk in Malaysia" (July 2007) the situation for people from Burma seeking refuge and work in Malaysia has not improved at all. Raids by the Malaysian vigilante group Rela have continued and may be even more widespread. Rela activities are said to be especially violent and relentless in regions other than Kuala Lumpur, with the island of Penang especially prone to Rela raids. In addition to the abusive behavior of the government-sanctioned legitimate Rela units, the unlimited power of Rela has spawned copycat criminals who simply pose as Rela members in order to rob and extort from foreigners. Lack of police or government control of Rela continues in spite of international press coverage and pressure campaigns. Members of the Chin and Kachin communities mentioned recent legal in-sourcing of Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia as a new problem, driving down wages for the illegal foreign workers and increasing competition for jobs..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Project Maje
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 04 April 2008

Title: Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination
Date of publication: March 2008
Description/subject: "there are no publicly available statistics on the number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Estimates refer to 1,8 million registered (or documented) migrant workers and about 5 million undocumented migrant workers. “Migrant workers account for about 30% to 50% of the total Malaysian labour force. In spite of the important contribution that this represents to the Malaysian economy, the authorities have not put in place any consistent national immigration policy”, said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH. Undocumented migrants usually work for the ‘3D jobs’ (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) and are not adequately protected against unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers. Domestic legislation does not provide for a specific protection for refugees, asylum seekers or trafficked persons. Only a temporary residence permit, the IMM 13 visas, can offer a de facto protection for refugees against refoulement. Domestic legislation provides for an insufficient protection of children refugees and asylum seekers, in particular as regards access to education. Detention of children for immigration purposes is common, while it should be prohibited as a principle. The People’s Volunteer Corps-RELA, a volunteer force composed of more than 400 000 reservists, is meant to safeguard peace and security in the country. In times of peace, it contributes to the enforcement of the immigration law. The lack of training and supervision of RELA members are major concerns. “RELA carries raids against migrants, without distinction between undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and with unnecessary use of force. The Malaysian authorities should immediately cease the use of RELA officers in the enforcement of immigration law”, said Swee Seng Yap, Executive Director of SUARAM. The Immigration Act raises a number of concerns with regard to the administration of justice: the length of time a migrant arrested under the Act may be held before being brought before a Magistrate is overly long (14 days); detention may even be indeterminate pending removal; the exclusion of the right to challenge decisions under the Act on a number of grounds; and the absence of specific protection for migrants in case of abuse by employers or unpaid wages. The report documents the poor conditions of detention, particularly in the « immigration depots ». Overcrowded facilities are leading to breaches of basic standards of hygiene; insufficient diet and health care, ill treatment of detainees and a failure to adequately protect women and children in detention are of particular concern. FIDH urges the Malaysian authorities to amend the immigration Act with a view to avoiding that violations of provisions relating to migration are treated in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile and as a minimum, the sentence of whipping should be abolished as corporal punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, and the maximum term of imprisonment provided for immigration offences should be reduced. "Up to now, the government has been adopting a punitive approach to the issue of migration: the poor conditions of detention of migrants in the immigration detention centers and the fact that they can be condemned to corporal punishments (whipping) are part of this policy. Time has come for a comprehensive policy on migration, based on international human rights standards”, said Cynthia Gabriel, Vice-president of FIDH and Board member of SUARAM. “We call upon the newly elected parliamentarians to consider our recommendations, and to put aside the RELA Bill that was tabled last year for first reading”, she concluded.
Language: English
Source/publisher: SUARAM, FIDH
Format/size: pdf (236K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5357
Date of entry/update: 04 April 2008

Title: Burma - Visit to the Thailand-Burma Border and Malaysia
Date of publication: 25 February 2008
Description/subject: "...In addition to the crisis inside Burma, CSW wishes to highlight the seriously under-reported challenges facing Burmese refugees in Malaysia, and the desperate conditions in which they exist in urban and jungle camps in and around Kuala Lumpur. The regular detention and deportation of Burmese refugees by the Malaysian authorities, including severe mistreatment such as caning, require urgent international attention and action..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
Format/size: pdf (165K)
Date of entry/update: 26 February 2008

Title: Unsafe Harbor
Date of publication: September 2007
Description/subject: Malaysia provides no protection for its refugee population... "I’ve always thought that the lives of Burmese refugees were much the same from place to place. They’re generally unwanted, have few opportunities to better their lives and in many cases suffer unconscionable abuse. An Irrawaddy correspondent witnesses the hardships facing migrant in Malaysia Witnessing the appalling conditions endured by Burmese refugees in Malaysia, however, has brought their misery and lack of hope into greater focus. During a visit to the Ampang suburb of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, a Rohingya community leader casually pointed to a group of young Burmese children playing near the small hut that served as their home. “Look,” he said, pointing in their direction. “None of these children can read or write.” None of the schools in Malaysia accepts refugee children from Burma, so these children are unlikely ever to learn while they remain in the country..."
Author/creator: Violet Cho
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol 15, No. 9
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 02 May 2008

Title: We Built This City: Workers from Burma at Risk in Malaysia
Date of publication: July 2007
Description/subject: "Having fled regions of Burma which are among the closest equivalents of hell on earth, refugees from an array of ethnic groups have found an uneasy stopping point in Malaysia. They have run for their lives from forced labor, land confiscation, agricide, military rape and torture, religious persecution, and other severe human rights violations, as well as in some cases forced conscription into the very government army that is committing these crimes. While Malaysia does not border Burma, and is distant from the inland homes of many of the refugees, it is within reach of the Burma/Thailand border. Malaysia has become a particular destination for refugees from areas of Burma that do not border Thailand, the traditional first stop for those who have fled Burma..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Project Maje
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2007

Title: Nowhere to Go: Chin Refugees in Malaysia
Date of publication: October 2005
Description/subject: "Starting from the early 1990s Chin refugees come to Malaysia in search of security and survival. Most Chin refugees say they fled to Malaysia to escape life-threatening conditions at home as a result of widespread human rights abuses such as political repression, forced labor, arbitrary arrest and torture at the hands of Burma’s ruling military regime. These claims were validated by the fact that while preparing this brief report, CHRO received a report that a Chin civilian was beaten to death and four village council members from Salen village severely tortured by members of the Burma military. In the spring of 2005, the population of Chin refugees in Malaysia was estimated at about 12,000. Of these numbers only about 600 are recognized by UNHCR Kuala Lumpur as refugees. There are about 6000 Chin refugees who have already obtained serial number from Chin Refugees Committee CRC, a first step in a long waiting process for a UNHCR interview. Because UNHCR is currently accepting only 18 new interviews per week for Chin applicants, it is most likely that with the current pace it will take years before a regular individual case can get processed by UNHCR. As the amnesty period for “illegal migrants” in Malaysia expired at the end of February, the security of Chin refugees has become more precarious. “We are not allowed to live here in Malaysia, and we can not go back to our home country, we have got no where to go” said a 60 year-old former school teacher who is now seeking refuge in Malaysia. The living conditions of the refugees are deplorable. About 20-40 people on average are clustered in a two-bedroom apartment. These are only those who can afford to live in the city and towns. Many more thousands of refugees are living in the jungle of Putrajaya and Cameron Highland Plantation in makeshift tents with plastic roof. On several occasions, police have raided their jungle camps and burnt their tents. The refugees usually come back and rebuild their tents as they have got no where else to go. Between 1998 and 2005 March, over one hundred Chin refugees have died in Malaysia. Of these numbers, only 20 of them have died of natural causes and illness. The rest of them died a violent death due to accidents in the worksite or while being chased by the police. There are about 400 Chin refugees who are in detention camp at the time this report is being prepared..." The smaller file (92K) is text only. The larger one (2.5MB) also contains photos.
Source/publisher: Chin Human Rights Organization
Format/size: Word (92K), pdf (2.5MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/Nowhere_to_Go_Chin_Refugees_in_Malaysia.pdf
Date of entry/update: 18 October 2005

Title: No Asylum: Burmese in Malaysia
Date of publication: June 2002
Description/subject: "Malaysia�s stringent anti-migrant policies are making life unbearable for refugees from Burma, including those recognized by the UNHCR. Tens of thousands of immigrants put themselves into the hands of human traffickers each year to arrange for their illegal entry into Malaysia. Among them are thousands of Burmese immigrants who have bought their way into the country�not so much in search of a high-paying job as to escape persecution in their own country. However, the strict policy of the Malaysian government against any form of unauthorized immigration does not draw distinctions between the immigrants� circumstances. When arrested, even genuine Burmese asylum seekers are deported back to Thailand, where many end up back in the hands of traffickers...."
Author/creator: Mun Ching
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 10, No. 5, June 2002
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Malaysia/Burma: Living in Limbo
Date of publication: July 2000
Description/subject: Burmese Rohingyas in Malaysia. Contains a good discussion of the Rohingyas' de facto statelessness under the 1982 Citizenship Law as well as background material on the Rohingyas' situation in Burma.."Burmese authorities bear responsibility for the Rohingya's flight. Burma's treatment of the Rohingya is addressed in the background section of the report, and the report offers specific recommendations to the Burmese government. The focus of this report, however, is on what happens to Rohingya when they reach Malaysia. There, they are not treated as refugees fleeing persecution who should be afforded protection, but as aliens subject to detention or deportation in violation of Malaysia's international human rights obligations..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Watch
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003