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Refugee activists tells Malaysia to “show some leniency”

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A refugee group has criticised the Malaysian government for arresting and detaining, among refugees and migrants, social workers and volunteers, in a midnight raid on 31 March. Zomi National Congress (New Generation) asked Malaysia to show some leniency towards the refugees, who they claimed, have fled the oppressive military regime in Burma.

Zomi National Congress (New Generation) was shocked to learn that Malaysia’s immigration department and a group of controversial volunteers named RELA had raided and detained thousands of refugees, mostly ethnic groups from Burma, at midnight on 31 March.

The New Generation is a sister organisation of the Zomi National Congress, a political party in Burma organised and run by its own members who have been living abroad since 2000. 

In a press statement issued recently, New Generation said it considered the human rights violation against refugees by the Malaysian government “tragic” and expressed its feelings of distress to learn that the detainees included social workers and volunteers among the refugee communities. These volunteers were among a group to assist helpless refugees fulfill their daily needs and provide them with a range of social welfare services, from health care to education.

“These are the refugees who fled their country due to the inhumane oppression and unfair discrimination exercised by the brutal military government of Burma. (They have come here) to seek a safe place to live their own lives,” said the New Generation in a press statement addressed to FORUM-ASIA.

Most of the refugees hail from the Chin State of Burma, and they consist of the Zomi, Chin and Asho ethnic groups. They were reportedly one of the most oppressed people in Burma ad suffered greatly at the hands of the military government since it seized power in 1962.

Currently there are more than 40,000 refugees from Chin State alone in Malaysia. Since the Malaysian government does not recognise this group as refugees, they are forced to protect and provide for themselves under the umbrella of different ethnic communities such as the Zomi Association of Malaysia (ZAM) and Chin Refugee Committee (CRC).

More than 8000 Zomi refugees are registered in ZAM, which is already overburdened taking care of the daily needs and health care of its member refugees.

“It is a big disaster (the midnight raid and detention on 31 March) for the refugee communities since its social workers and volunteers at ZAM were detained without any show of leniency,” the New Generation added.

Meanwhile, the New Generation urged the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to step in urgently to deal with detained ethnic refugees from Burma in Malaysia. It also added that the field office of the agency in Malaysia had been processing refugee registration within its limited capacity.

“With most respect and trust, we the people of Zomi ask the world body of the UNHCR to stretch its helping hand and take action on this human disaster before it is too late to save the life of the refugees from being abandoned or deported into the hands of the brutal army,” the refugee group said.

They then called for the Malaysian government to show some leniency towards the ethnic refugees from Burma, who continue to suffer from oppression and discrimination. 

RELA had been constantly in the spotlight for its arbitrary detention and harassment of refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia. 

On 22 March, RELA had allegedly arrested 200 UN-recognised Rohingya refugees, including children currently attending a basic education programme in Ampang, east of Kuala Lumpur1.

During the raid, RELA was reported to have “physically abused some refugees by beating and kicking those who tried to run, who did not stop, who did not come forward, who did not open their door immediately and those showing their UNHCR card”. 

Most of them were later sent to Semenyih detention camp, Lenggeng detention camp and KLIA immigration depot.

Another refugee group based in Malaysia, the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation (MERHROM), has condemned the raid and requested the Malaysian government to release them and allow refugees to stay temporarily while awaiting their resettlement to a third country.

Source: www.