By Muhammad Saifullah
The Rohingyas were compelled to leave their homeland by the oppressive regime and scattered across all over the world like neighboring Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia respectively.
The Rohingya arrived in Malaysia in 1982 when their citizen rights in Burma were denied. As Malaysia is not signatory to 1951 convention and 1967 Protocol, it does not recognize any refugee in the country. All the refugees are considered illegal migrants under Malaysian immigration law.
I heard from some of the Rohingyas who arrived in Malaysia earlier said “Although we arrived in Malaysia in 1982 our children are still deprived basic right to education even who were born here and have been suffering all kinds of tortures, arrests, detentions, deportation and robbery by the locals till today.”
Rohingya refugees who took refuge in Malaysia are marginalized. Neither they are protected on close ground nor insisted under UNHCR mandate. Rohingyas are not recognized as mandated refugees by the UNHCR and the host country therefore, gave two options whether repatriation or resettlement but their resettlement for decade based Rohingya refugees is yet to be referred and even Rohingyas are not considered for resettlement at all while the other refugee groups are being resettled on weekly basis.
According to some refugees, “In 1992, the Malaysian government issued temporary document called “Pass Khas” to some Rohingya refugees which was given 6 month validity. No more pass cards were issued after one year. Since then and up to 2000, Rohingya survived without any legal documents. Therefore, people went through various difficulties such as robbery by the locals, arrest, detention and deportation by the Malaysian authority”.
The Rohingyas become victims of human trafficking and have to face various difficulties if they are deported to Thailand. They are sold to Thai agents by the Malaysian immigration. The agent send them back to Malaysia again after taking double money they paid to immigration. If they can not comply to pay the amount they are forced to work for them for months otherwise they are sold to Thai fishing boats where many of the Refugees were missing reportedly. If they deportees are women, they are raped by the agents and locals.
In 2000, the refugees were issued Surat Sumpa (Letter of swear) by the High Court of Malaysia as refugee. Later, it was intercepted by the authority because of fraud activities among both Refugees and Immigration officer.
An elder Rohingya said “In May 2002, the government of Malaysia announced all the illegal migrants should go back to their respective countries whether they are Rohingyas refugees or others no matter to be considered. The government of Malaysia never considered us as refugees and we have been given deadline to leave the country. As we left our country Burma for the well founded fear of persecution and to escape arbitrary arrest, torture and extra judicial killing by the military regime we were unable to be backing home where our lives would be in danger if we are deported or returned. Most of the Rohingyas were arrested after deadline and the punishment was too harsh for those who were arrested. Pitifully, we approached to UNHCR office Kuala Lumpur to seek help for our protection. Luckily, UNHCR agreed to issue us a letter called “Rohingya certification letter while after few months it was replaced on the name of “Temporary protection letter.”
According to Data collection report by UNHCR in 2002, about 12,000 (Twelve-Thousand) Rohingya refugees were registered, of them 3,000 (Three-Thousand) are children.
In 2004, following the announcement of Malaysia about Imm-13 (temporary visit pass or work permit) for Rohingyas, the UN Refugees’ Agency welcomed the decision and reduced its supports toward Rohingyas, and the agency is not paying more attention to solve the long standing problem of Rohingya by alternative way.
Agency’s commitment through short term assistances to some vulnerable cases is not enough and most cases of widowers, handicappers, cripples, aged, are not fallen into its expectation.
The Malaysian government does not pay clear attention to the suffering situation of the Rohingyas and considers as like as illegal immigrants under its Immigration Act. The government also believes that the Rohingyas’ are person of concern to the UNHCR and waiting for resettlement in 3rd countries or UNHCR is only refugee agency in taking care of all possible responsibilities.
The Rohingyas are victims of marginalization both by UNHCR and government of Malaysia. If the Rohingyas go to UNHCR office, they are replied the Malaysian government has already announced that you will be issued IMM-13 and you are no more person of concern to us.
Osman a Rohingya refugee said “If we approach to Malaysian government for help we are replied that you are person of concern to UNHCR and we do not recognize any refugee in our country under the law of Malaysia”.
When any cabinet Minister or Immigration officer is interviewed about the Rohingya they say “we do not arrest or torture any refugee who is holding UNHCR identity card except crime”. If the immigration and RELA officer are asked when we are arrested that we are refugees here we did not do any crime why we are being arrested. At that time, we are replied you are illegal as you don’t have legal document here that is your crime”.
Their children are not allowed to go for public school and even religious school too. It is a surprising matter to be heard that since 1982 from the start of Rohingyas’ arrival in Malaysia, not even a single child could manage to be a University student. It is out of record that not a single Rohingya child could make their way to be a doctor, an engineer or professional educationist who was born in Malaysia. Now, I have a question here that who has destroyed their golden lives? So, now you may able to understand what kinds of rights for the Rohingya are existed in Malaysia?
Indeed, Rohingya refugees have no hope in Malaysia for their future and they have already destroyed the golden lives of their past generation over here. So, Rohingya refugees would like to call and send their silent voice to the international community to stand in favor of help and assistance to bring a durable solution through the resettlement program like other refugees. And they also would like to request UNHCR Malaysia to kindly favor them and consider their vulnerability and to take an effective measure to save their future generation through the resettlement program in the signatory countries where their lives would not be in danger any more. Save the Rohingyas from danger, educate the Rohingyas from backward, protect the Rohingyas from the risks and shelter the Rohingyas from statelessness.
Muhammad Saifullah is a Burmese activist serving Rohingya community while teaching refugee children in Malaysia for 3-year. For more details please visit http://saiful2009.webs.com