Last Updated on Feb. 12, 2018, 12:04 p.m.
PETALING JAYA: Tenaganita says the government is responsible for the poor treatment and insecurity experienced by refugees in the country as it has still not ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on Refugees.
The human rights NGO’s executive director Glorene Das said such an endorsement, together with relevant policies giving recognition to refugees, would make them feel safe in the country.
Das was responding to a report in which the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) said Malaysia is a “living hell” for refugees.
She said the government’s refusal to recognise the UN convention on refugees made them feel vulnerable to human trafficking syndicates.
“Until today, Malaysia has not been giving them any form of identity but yet, allowed them to stay,” Das told FMT, referring to the 152,400 refugees living in the country.
According to the report by US-based News Deeply, the unregistered refugee population is estimated to range from 40,000 to more than 100,000.
The report said the majority of refugees come from Myanmar, including some 66,000 Rohingya. This is followed by Pakistanis, Yemenis and Syrians.
Das said refugees always risked being arrested and deported as they had no proper documents to show.
“Then it is another living hell in lock-ups or in detention centres,” she said.
According to News Deeply, Malaysia cannot be considered a haven for refugees despite the government’s recent pledge to take in thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria.
Aside from the government’s refusal to recognise the UN convention on refugees, other concerns included the legal hurdles for refugees to get jobs and education.
“We have no rules, policies, laws or regulations when it comes to refugees,” Das said.
“The inability of refugee communities to obtain work and education is because of the non-existing policies as the government views them as illegals.
“Refugees are always perceived as poor, uneducated, intruders, criminals and illegals. Hence, they are treated as the lowest class in society and are harassed all the time.”
She added that efforts to change people’s perspective of refugees remained ineffective as there are no policies implemented by the government to recognise them and give them certain fundamental rights.
According to Das, even if the government is not ready to sign the UN convention on refugees now, developing relevant policies for their benefit is crucial.
“That is the only way Malaysia will be able to protect the refugees,” she said.
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