Sunday, July 24, 2011

Asylum seekers and boat people - the Malaysian way

Update: Eric Paulsen. the co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights and law reforms organisation based in Malaysia says Malaysia is the worst place for refugees as they are being treated like 'shit' (read here)


Malaysia and Australia are expected to sign the 'asylum deal' tomorrow. Despite being a non-signatory to the United Nations' Refugee Convention, Malaysia has been very consistent with its boat people policy, treating them well and allowing them to work and live here although Australia and some developed nations deplore it bluntly.

Under the original proposal – which may by now have been updated during negotiations between the two governments and UNHCR – 800 asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat would be exchanged with 4,000 of Malaysia's already processed refugees.

It needs to be remembered that the Malaysia deal is one part of a more comprehensive policy response to unauthorised boat arrivals that also includes maintaining development assistance in conflict-affected countries, capacity-building in transit countries, especially in South East Asia, and a raft of anti-smuggling measures.

The deal has been widely criticised but both governments deserves some credit. First, it is clearly taking seriously the increase in unauthorised boat arrivals in Australia over the last two years or so, and Malaysia's good record in protecting the refugees.

There is a separate debate to be had about whether what are still relatively small numbers of boat arrivals really merit such a dramatic response, but clearly their political significance outweighs their numerical significance, and both governments had to respond. They have responded within the law, and with the cover of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees).

The arrival of a further 4,000 refugees would increase by about 50 per cent Australia's 2010 resettlement quota, taking it past Canada to be the second largest refugee resettlement country in the world.

However, critics - especially from some Western human rights organisations - are showing serious concern about the prospects for the 800 asylum seekers who will be exchanged.

As Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and thus is not bound to respect principles such as 'non-refoulment' which guards against refugees being returned home against their will. UNHCR had earlier told Malaysia not to deport them to the country from which they fled.

Human rights activists in Australia and Malaysia have expressed concerns about the detention of asylum seekers here, and the legal system for processing their claims. Together with UNHCR, they had insisted on some safeguards, for example regarding the exchange of children, and monitoring of those who do come to Malaysia.

And Down Under, the critics are that, there is no guarantee that this policy will achieve its ultimate objective, which is to stop the boats arriving in Australia.

For that to happen, prospective asylum seekers need to know – and care – about the possibility that they may end up in Malaysia rather than Australia. And probably more importantly, the smugglers who move them, who will certainly know about the policy, also need to care. If the policy has no direct impact on their businesses, they are unlikely to.

It is also important for a country like Australia that trades on its international reputation for decency — the policy risks attracting serious negative international attention. Already some commentators have observed that Australia is swapping 800 mainly Muslims for 4000 mainly non-Muslims.

Malaysia can always question Australia's motive in 'giving away' the Muslims to us but as a nation of good human spirit, we place the swap (and the agreement) above all, above diplomatic discrepancies and above critics.

I think Malaysia needs to do more in convincing the international community that asylum seekers and the refugees have all this while been treated like others - in some cases much better than any ordinary citizen. They were allowed to work, study and do business although such a conditions are not stipulated in the Convention.

And for all the adverse comments from the Western media and human rights organisation, including UNHCR itself, Malaysia has never asked for a single penny to feed the refugees. And I wonder whether UNHCR and those critics have ever thought of aiding Malaysia?


20 comments:

jimmy the tailor said...

tell me, which country gives better care to refugees apart from malaysia?

even australia is not so friendly to foreigners for its racism.

UNHCR should consider what malaysia has done in the past in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers. the country has helped a lot but has come under heavy criticism.

billabong said...

australia sees the muslims as a security threat. thats why they want to swap it with the 4,000 christian refugees.

so much of a free country!

otherwise, they wont come to any agreement with malaysia.

right, aussies?

Anonymous said...

i thought there wont be any deal unless UNHCR is fully satisfied with all the arrangements?

what happened?

kawat duri said...

kalau kita bukan anggota konvensyen pelarian PBB, kenapa kita bersusah payah nak sign dengan australia, satu kuasa yang hanya ingin menjaga kepentingannya di rantau ini dan bersekedudukan dengan amerika.

jika kita bukan anggotanya, jangan meterai apa2 perjanjian sebab ia akan meletakkan kita di dalam keadaan diplomatik yang kurang menyenangkan.

kita masih ingat pelarian bot hai hong suatu masa dahulu. walaupun malaysia sedia menerima mereka, kita didesak pula oleh UNHCR agar memberikan pelbagai kemudahan yang sama seperti rakyat sendiri. sebagai negara yang baru hendak membangun, kita terpaksa berbelanja besar untuk mereka dan untuk UNHCR sedangkan mereka sedikit pun tidak membantu kita.

australia cuma ingin lepas tangan dalam hal ini, lebih2 lagi yang akan dihantar ke sini adalah orang islam, yang sememangnya dibenci oleh orang australia!

biol said...

baik australia hantar 800 kangaru je ke sini...

bagus ke cadangan saya ni bang bujai?

diplomat said...

Malaysia allows refugees registered with the UNHCR to live in the community, rather than detaining them as Australia does, but as families wait years for resettlement, their access to health services and community-run schools is limited by meagre incomes.

Illegal foreign workers in Malaysia are routinely rounded up by police, and it is this risk of arrest if refugees are caught working, or without identity documents, that has caused the greatest problems for its 95,000 asylum seekers.

The Malaysian government embarked this month on a program to fingerprint all 2 million legal foreign workers before an amnesty on August 1 for illegal workers. The biometric registration is designed to overcome the trading of blackmarket identity documents.

To counter accusations Australia has abrogated its responsibilities under the Refugee Convention, the federal government has promised millions of dollars to expand the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration's operations in Malaysia, and has said it will fund the education, health and resettlement costs of the 800 ''transportees'', who will be clearly identified to Malaysian authorities.

How this will be done needs to be spelt out in today's bilateral agreement, which the Gillard government will publish, and two separate deals with the UNHCR and IOM.

let us hope the best for all.

virus said...

better dont sign anything lor, if it is going to burden us and open us to further international condemnation.

no point helping to solve the prob if we are not appreciated.

Anonymous said...

why must hisham signs for our govt?

this is a big matter. muhyiddin should, instead!

Anonymous said...

we should call it off or defer it.

unhcr antonio guteres has raised doubts about the malaysian deal by saying he was not confident with malaysia.

so, why must we go on?

cilaka ini guteres!

rahim kemensah said...

malaysia memang handal dan bagus.

dulu kita bawak pelarian bosnia, beribu-ribu jumlahnya. kita bagi rumah, kerja, sekolah, perubatan dan sebagainya yang tidak dikecap langsung oleh ramai rakyat kita sendiri.

lepas tu, kita ambil pelarian palestin, timor timur dan acheh. kita bagi layanan istemewa sehinggakan rakyat tempatan tak boleh kacau mereka. siapa cuba kacau, akan kena tindakan.

banyak gak duit habis. orang kampung yang ada anak tak bersekolah dan kurang makan, masih menderita.

ini nak tambah lagi. agaknya apa layanan istimewa untuk mereka kali ni?

agaknya banglo sebijik, proton perdana sebuah, kerja eksekutif di semua GLC.... hmmmm....

jeremiah, brisbane said...

The comments by Mr Guterres mark the first time he has spoken publicly about the dilemma the Malaysia plan has created for the refugee agency.

While he did not go into detail on sticking points, the UNHCR has in the past expressed concern about the legal right to work for people to be sent from Australia, protection for unaccompanied children, and access to healthcare and education. It also insists that asylum seekers not be returned to their country of origin if this puts them in danger.

Mr Guterres's hesitation is a blow for the australian government, which has been working on a compromise with Malaysia and had been confident negotiations were being finalised. There are more than 300 asylum seekers sitting in limbo on Christmas Island who Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said will be processed in another country.

i hope he comes to his senses.

karipuley said...

this paulsen is an idiot and a coward.

he is based in malaysia but issued a statement to an indonesian media.

where is his balls? in refuge too?

urko said...

kepada datuk hisham,

JANGAN SAIN APA2!

kalau UNHCR sendiri hentam dan kutuk kita macam2, tak payahlah. ini semua kerja sukarela.

oleh kerana kita bukan signatory konvensyen pelarian ni, elok kita buat apa kita suka. diorang cuma mahu menyusahkan kita je!

JANGAN SAIN!

Anonymous said...

aku kenal ramai orang rohingya dan bosnia yang jadi pelarian kat sini.

hidup kaya-raya dan angkuh pulak tu.

orang macam ni kita nak tolong?

old trend said...

once signed, there will be flaws again...

... and malaysia will be blamed again... and again... and again

Anonymous said...

we are only so kind to foreigners, refugees and asylum seekers....

think about it man!

panas baran said...

siapa eric paulsen ni?

dia ada kat malaysia ke? kat mana? tlg bagi alamat dia. kalau aku jumpa, nak siat2 kulit dahi dia!

anak haram jadah!

Anonymous said...

why didnt we sign the refugee convention?

hamba Allah said...

if australia sends muslims refugees to malaysia, then it reflect how bias they are towards the religion, how racist they are.

i think we should reconsider the pact.

fulus said...

800 untuk 4,000 tu bagus tapi sampai bila kita nak terima pelarian ni, bagi makan, bagi rumah, bagi segala-galanya sedangkan masih ada rakyat yang dipinggirkan?