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April 2022

Episode: KPN 25-4-2022

Kaladan Radio April 25, 2022 245 4


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Malaysian Bar calls for reform on refugees’ management

The Malaysian Bar calls for a more effective and humane framework to properly handle refugees in light of the recent escape of more than 500 Rohingya refugees from the Sungai Bakap’s depot, Penang, recently.

Its president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn calls for the government and its authorities to establish an independent investigating body to investigate the matters surrounding the incident at the detention centre.

“It is a wake-up call to our government and authorities that far more needs to be done to improve living conditions in immigration depots and to formulate a proper plan to manage those who flee to Malaysia. Surely, there must be proper stakeholder engagement with agencies that include the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar, as well as NGOs.”

Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, the Malaysia bar president

“It is a wake-up call to our government and authorities that far more needs to be done to improve living conditions in immigration depots and to formulate a proper plan to manage those who flee to Malaysia.

“Surely, there must be proper stakeholder engagement with agencies that include the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar, as well as NGOs,” she said in a statement last Friday.

On Wednesday, a total of 382 Rohingya detainees out of 528 who escaped from the Sungai Bakap’s temporary immigration depot in Penang were re-arrested.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin said all of the detainees who escaped were Rohingya refugees who have been relocated from the Wawasan Langkawi camp after being arrested for illegally entering the national waters and violating the Immigration Act in 2020.

Six deaths involving the escapees were reported.

Cheah added that participation from different institutions will make the investigation more transparent and accountable, and hoped that the country would also look at how we are treating our refugees and asylum-seekers as an act of responsibility.

Although Malaysia did not sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, she advised that we still need to be responsible as part of an international community and ensure that those who cross our border are not abused and exploited.

Many of the escapees are refugees and asylum seekers who have been detained since 2020 and the cause of the escape is due to overcrowding.

“The dire plight of the Rohingyas raises several points of concern, and if the detention of these Rohingyas was in fact indefinite as reported, it is an inhumane and cruel tactic that is arbitrary, oppressive and is hardly an effective migration management tool.”

Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, the Malaysia bar president

“The dire plight of the Rohingyas raises several points of concern, and if the detention of these Rohingyas was in fact indefinite as reported, it is an inhumane and cruel tactic that is arbitrary, oppressive and is hardly an effective migration management tool,” she added.

Cheah also highlighted a few reasons why reformation on handling refugees was important.

Some of the detainees were children and it could bring trauma towards them if they are detained in any form, leaving long-lasting effects on their health and development.

“According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, children held in detention are at a risk from suffering depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is pertinent to note that the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture has found that immigration detention for children, even for a short period of time, may constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of migrant children.”

Therefore, it is important that we recognise children as vulnerable groups which should be granted protection.

Cheah also felt disappointed that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Office was not granted access to the detainees at the Sungai Bakap’s depot.

“While Malaysia has vowed not to deport refugees or asylum-seekers who are registered with UNHCR according to the customary international law principle of non-refoulement, the problem is not alleviated when UNHCR is not granted access to conduct refugee status determination for those who are detained.”

Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, the Malaysia bar president

“While Malaysia has vowed not to deport refugees or asylum-seekers who are registered with UNHCR according to the customary international law principle of non-refoulement, the problem is not alleviated when UNHCR is not granted access to conduct refugee status determination for those who are detained,” she mentioned.

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