SkyscraperCity Forum banner
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
'Real People, Real Needs': World Refugee Day 2009

JUNE 20 — My first encounter with a refugee who sought safety in Malaysia occurred quite unexpectedly. I was 19 years old in my first week of university in the United Kingdom. An Asian-looking girl in my halls of residence sought me out, wanted to meet a ‘Malaysian’. I was curious.

In her strong American accent, she started telling me an extraordinary story. She told me of how she fled Vietnam with her family on a crowded, rickety boat. She was four years old.

She remembered being afraid of pirates and people hiding gold in their teeth. She remembered being worried that their boat would sink or that they would run out of food, and how relieved everybody was when they finally landed.

She had vague memories of growing up in a camp in Malaysia, of waiting for resettlement. Her family was eventually accepted into the United States, and they moved there with hardly anything, entering yet another alien environment.

They struggled to fit into ‘American culture’, but she was young and hardworking and coped better than her parents. She got top marks at school and came to the UK for her junior year abroad. Her name was Elizabeth; she was my age.

I forgot about these conversations for almost a decade as I got into my studies and started working. I only thought about ‘refugees’ again when I met Acehnese in Kuala Lumpur in 2003.

The way they struggled to survive, their physical and mental trauma, their deep concerns about getting arrested and deported, prompted me to start reading up on Malaysia’s history with refugees.

Over the past centuries many groups have sought asylum in Malaysia. The Acehnese, for example, have had a long history of coming to the peninsula when conflict escalates in their province in Sumatra. Some who fled Dutch domination were granted citizenship with the forming of Malaya. Others were given permanent resident status in the 1980s when the Malaysian government welcomed the peoples of Indonesia to work and reside in Malaysia.

The most iconic groups of refugees in recent memory are, of course, the Indochinese refugees.

Between 1975 and 1995, close to two million people left Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam overland and on boats, seeking refuge in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Between 1975 and 1992, Malaysia offered permanent residence to an estimated 10,000 Cambodian Muslims, some resettled from Thailand.

However, for a time, Malaysia had a policy of pushing Vietnamese boats back out to sea, unless the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) intervened in time.

Through its participation in the intergovernmental Comprehensive Plan of Action established in 1989, Malaysia eventually hosted around 250,000 Vietnamese refugees in temporary camps until they were processed for resettlement or repatriated safely back to Vietnam.

Malaysia has also offered asylum to different groups of Muslim refugees, albeit sporadically.

In 1994, in a public demonstration of Islamic solidarity and rising Asian economic strength during a global crisis, Malaysia offered asylum to 350 Bosnian Muslims fleeing the collapse of Yugoslavia.

In the 1970s, Malaysia offered refuge to 120,000 Muslim refugees from the southern Philippines who came to Sabah. Of this number, an estimated 61,000 remain on renewable IMM13 work permits.

After the devastating Asian Tsunami in December 2004, Malaysia issued an estimated 32-35,000 IMM13 work permits to Acehnese refugees. Large numbers of these had arrived from 2003 onwards to escape intensive military operations, which ended with the signing of the Helsinki Peace Agreement in August 2005.

However, such humanitarian gestures have been exceptions rather than the rule. The dominant trend in Malaysia has been the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons as ‘illegal immigrants’.

Having fled persecution and conflict, these groups often find themselves in desperate circumstances in Malaysia, hunted down through immigration operations, detained for long periods in detention centres, whipped as criminals, and deported to border zones where they become easy prey for human traffickers.

Most refugees live from day to day in constant fear and abject poverty. Desperate for long-term solutions, some have boarded boats again, traveling onwards to nearby countries like Japan and Australia.

Malaysian apologists for such harsh treatment have claimed, erroneously, that Malaysia has no responsibilities towards asylum seekers and refugees because it is neither party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol.

This is an oft repeated, tired refrain – a misunderstanding that legitimizes the abdication of our responsibilities as a member of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council.

Malaysia has ratified two international human rights treaties – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The two international committees overseeing the implementation of these treaties have urged the Malaysian government to take concrete measures to protect refugees. Instead of doing so, Malaysian government officials waver between blaming the UNHCR for ‘creating’ refugees and for not resettling them as quickly as they should.

It is vital that the Malaysian government works with the international community to find durable solutions for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in the region. This isn’t something that Malaysia has to bear alone, but we must acknowledge that we have a role to play.

We need domestic laws and administrative systems that identify and protect vulnerable groups in accordance with international standards and obligations. We must design these systems well, so that are not easily manipulated and corrupted by those who take advantage of weaker populations.

In the meantime, the Malaysian government can immediately invoke section 55 of the Immigration Act in order to exempt asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons from punishment for immigration offences.

As long as nations are at war, as long as political instability, persecution and conflict exist, there will always be asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons. Some of them will come to Malaysia; this is a fact of life.

Rather than pretending they do not exist, or blaming them for seeking our help, we need to recognize our international obligations to protect and assist these vulnerable groups.

When I met Elizabeth in 1994, I didn’t know anything about refugees. I realize now how great a danger she faced as a four-year old child. She could easily have perished on the waves of the South China Sea. In taking her in, Malaysia literally saved her life.

Malaysia is a strong state – well resourced and influential regionally and internationally. It is a key member of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Malaysia can play a lead role in protecting vulnerable people.

If our generation is remembered for anything, let us be remembered for this.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Human trafficking: Malaysians extort, Thais ignore

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Reports of organised human trafficking and extortion by Malaysian immigration officials, while Thailand turns a blind eye, are too credible to ignore.

It’s hard to know when a nightmare truly begins, and while caught in its grim unreality, when it will ever end.

Lian (not his real name) is a 25-year-old ethnic Chin man who fled his home in Burma out of fear of the military in September, 2006. He had been a truck driver, but often encountered Burmese soldiers who demanded — regardless of his duty to deliver the day’s haul — that he drives them places.

One day, he was taking some soldiers to a village when he ran out of petrol. The soldiers believed he had done so on purpose and they broke his windscreen and beat him, leaving a scar still plain to see above his left eye.

Lian’s story was made available to Spectrum by Amy Alexander, an advocacy officer with the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) who interviewed him. According to the case study, Lian was taken to an army camp and his ID was confiscated. When he was released, the soldiers’ goods had been stolen from his truck and they blamed him for the loss.

Lian fled and came to Thailand, where he couldn’t find a job and where an agent told him he should go to Malaysia to claim refugee status with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Thai refugee camps do not register ethnic Chin, and have not officially processed new refugees for several years.

He went to Malaysia and sought out the UNHCR office, but a security guard there turned him away for lack of documents. Despite visiting the premises every day for two weeks, he never figured out how to get access to a UNHCR officer.

He was arrested a year or so later in a 3 am immigration raid, put barefoot on a lorry and sent to a detention centre where detainees were not given fresh clothes and told they could only drink the bath water.

One night a month later he was taken with a busload of 73 other refugees and migrants to the Thai-Malaysia border. Immigration officials took them to a jungle area where a handful of brokering agents who spoke Malay and Thai were waiting in cars.

The group was told these agents had already bought them from the immigration officials and they were packed under blankets, 15 to a car, and driven 15 minutes to another jungle area, this time in Thailand.

Here there was a big tent with more agents, patrolled by several guards with guns. They were told, “If you can get money sent to us, then we can get you where you need to go. If not, you'll have problems.”

Lian could not immediately get the money (the agents call relatives or contacts of the refugees and migrants and arrange a transfer), and so he spent six days in the camp in which he was beaten, underfed and kept in the tent.

He eventually reached a friend in Kuala Lumpur who was able to transfer the necessary RM2,000 to the agents’ account that night.

With that, he was free to leave, and an agent led him and a group of 13 others back into Malaysia on foot. They were climbing over the border fence into the country when they were intercepted and drew fire from Malaysian border guards. They scattered in the jungle and regrouped the next morning. The agent had left them and the group was soon picked up by a vehicle that took them to a police station inside Malaysia.

They were put back in detention, this time in a facility that held 300 people per cell. Lian was shuffled to a few other detention centres before he was again deported to Thailand three months later. This time the immigration bus took 93 people to the border in the dark of night.

“When the immigration bus stopped, four agents came out from the jungle and met the bus. The authorities opened our handcuffs and told us to follow the agents,” said Lian.

The agents walked them through the jungle until they reached a large river, where a boat was waiting. They were ferried across the river to yet more agents, who separated them into groups of those that could pay, and those that couldn’t.

Lian called the same friend, who promised to pay the RM1,900 and in the same way he had come to the camp, he was shuttled back by agents to Kuala Lumpur.

Lian now lives in fear in the jungle on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He has a Chin refugee card, but as yet no documentation from the UNHCR, which has temporarily closed its registration for refugees, and no immediate hopes for resettlement.


As exhausting, costly and unfortunate as the story of Lian’s asylum-seeking journey is, his experience of being bounced around borders and cycled through prisons and detention centres is by no means atypical among the many refugees and migrants from Burma that seek better lives in Thailand and Malaysia.

And also apparently common, though not well publicised, are cases in which migrants and refugees in the hands of Malaysian immigration officials experience extortion and trafficking at the Thai-Malaysia border.

In most cases the refugees and migrants buy their way back to Malaysia by arranging the payment of the agent’s RM1,200 to RM2,000 ransom fee. When they can’t find the money or the friend to make this payment, they are reportedly sold to Thai fishing boats, brothels, and factories.

While human rights and ethnic Burmese community-based organisations, as well as a handful of media outlets in Malaysia have documented these cases for years (they refer to the Thai-Malaysian border as “the revolving door”), the allegations have never prompted more than staunch denials by Malaysian authorities and complete disregard from their Thai counterparts. Some analysts say the issue has never received significant attention in Thailand because of the turbulent environment in the nation’s South.

Monitors of the situation are hopeful that this will soon change, thanks in part to the release of a report prepared for the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations — Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand — earlier this month.

The report, which is based on a year-long investigation and which involved a number of personal interviews similar to Lian’s case study, alleges that Malaysian officials have been complicit in the extortion and human trafficking of a few thousand Burmese refugees at the Thai-Malaysian border.

Investigators also found many cases in which migrants had been sexually assaulted or had their rights abused during the arrest/detention/deportation cycle.

While the report does not directly implicate the involvement of Thai officials, it does suggest a sizeable, well-established network of human traffickers operates rather unabashedly, and in cooperation with Malaysian officials, along Thailand’s southern border.

Activities documented in the report centre around the Thai border city of Sungai Golok and Malaysia’s Kelantan state, as well as Padang Besar in Malaysia’s Peris state.

Those familiar with the report say it focuses mainly on Malaysia, because the information that prompted the investigation came from Burmese populations and human rights organisations in Malaysia.

Phil Robertson, a researcher on migration in Southeast Asia who has studied the issue, said, “What this is pointing out is something that has evidently been going on for a long time.”

He adds, “I was told two years ago by UNHCR staff in Malaysia that there were persons of concern [refugees] that had files and they disappeared for three or four years. They’d come back and tell these stories. I’ve met fishermen in Mahachai that speak of jungle camps ringed in barbed wired and men with guns, and being sold to fishermen.

“This is not something new. It’s only new that the international community is finally turning attention to this longtime lawless border.”

He says it is now the obligation of the Malaysian and Thai governments to act on the report.

“Malaysian immigration officials and RELA [Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia’s 500,000-strong civilian immigration corps, which has the power to investigate and arrest all suspected illegal immigrants] are directly implicated in selling people. This is criminal behavior and it warrants being investigated and prosecuted.

“While the Thai side gets less focus in this report, it takes two to tango. At minimum, the Thai government must mount an impartial investigation into the holding of these vast numbers of people. To not do so would be complicit in trafficking.”

He adds that “both countries have good, clear anti-trafficking laws. The culture of impunity must come to an end.”

Information collected by investigators, and which has been forwarded on to law enforcement agencies, paints an absurdly complete picture of the criminal network.

Details provided to the committee during interviews, previously published in media and NGO documents, and includes names of persons to whom the ransom payments were allegedly made; payment locations in Malaysia and Thailand; bank account numbers to which extortion payments are deposited; locations along the Thailand-Malaysia border where migrants are reportedly take by Malaysian officials; and the identification of people allegedly involved in the trafficking of migrants and refugees.

The agents are believed to be Thai, Malay and Burmese of a variety of ethnicities. In some reports, refugees at the border were sorted according to ethnicity.

Victims include Burmese refugees and migrants of numerous ethnicities including Chin, Rohingya, Shan and Mon who come to Malaysia to seek work or UNHCR documentation for third-country resettlement. Most are arrested in large-scale, late night raids conducted by the RELA.

The organisation has been described as fascist and in the past members reportedly received a bounty for each arrest they made. In many cases, refugees have had their UNHCR documentation discarded and personal property confiscated or lost completely.


Malaysia does not recognise refugees, but it does allow the UNHCR to operate in the country to process and resettle them. Accordingly, many refugees from Burma take the risk of travelling to Malaysia in the hopes of reaching the UNHCR before immigration officials reach them.

As of January 2009, there were 27,000 “persons of concern” from Burma registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia; it is believed there are at least 30,000 more waiting to be processed.

“It still happens that people with documents, and within weeks of resettlement, will be rounded up and deported. What’s ironic is that Malaysia is hostile to refugees that are trying to get out of Malaysia,” said Ms Alexander of the CHRO, who in addition to Lian interviewed a number of Chin refugees that have experienced the arrest/detention/deportation cycle.

She noted that it is also common for employers to hire migrants and then call in RELA for a raid a few days before their scheduled payment.

Once arrested by RELA, the migrants and refugees (children too) are generally detained in facilities with overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Deportation to a “jungle camp” at the Thai-Malaysia border usually follows several months later.

As for the policy logic behind the deportation of Burmese refugees to the Thai border, Robertson said, “these structures and systems are only as sophisticated as they need to be. The fundamental issue was that someone wanted to get these people out, and somewhere along the way, people figured out how to make money off of it.”

Unsurprisingly, these activities have only exacerbated the economic hardship and considerable level of fear migrants and refugees face.

When migrants cannot pay their ransom fees, families are split apart and sold to different industries. Little is known about the fate of the children at the border.

Another woman Ms Alexander interviewed who had been deported with her young daughter was told by agents: “Do you want to die here or do you want to be sold to a Thai night club? If you want to stay here, you will be the only woman and there is no guaranteeing what can happen to you.”

Because of these ordeals, migrants and refugees in Malaysia live in fear — often hiding in the jungle or barely leaving their of homes — because of the country’s peculiar immigration policy.

To help cope with these problems, Ms Alexander says migrants and refugees living in Malaysia have formed highly organised communities and networks of support that can be mobilised and try to scrape together sufficient funds to free a community member who gets caught up at the border.

She is hopeful the US Senate committee's report will provide an impetus for a sustainable solution to their problems.

“Right now, Malaysia is still issuing denials and insisting these are just the lies of international governments. But the accounts are credible — there are just so many. This is so systematic, it has happened so many times, to so many people.”

While Malaysian officials responded defensively to the US investigation and denied all allegations, there has recently been a turnover in Malaysia’s immigration ranks and a police investigation into the matter was reportedly launched on April 1.

Even so, the raids continue. Ms Alexander received word earlier this week that another 300 refugees and migrants had been arrested and detained earlier this week. Among the group are pregnant women, a number of children, and UNHCR documented asylum-seekers.

The Royal Thai Police did not respond to requests for information pertaining to this article in time for publication. — Bangkok Post

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
US Faults Malaysia for Poor Trafficking Record

By FOSTER KLUG / AP WRITER Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday faulted Malaysia, a key US partner in Southeast Asia, for failing to do enough to stop the sexual and forced labor exploitation of women and children.

The State Department's annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" put Malaysia on its list of top trafficking offenders. Repeat offenders on that list include North Korea, Burma and Fiji.

A man walks past a mural promoting awareness of the crime of human trafficking. The United States on Tuesday put its trading partner Malaysia back on the blacklist of countries trafficking in people. (Photo: AFP)

Countries cited for failing to take adequate steps to address trafficking can be subject to limited sanctions. The report is meant to expose trafficking problems around the world and propose solutions.

The report said that Malaysia is a destination and source "for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and for men, women and children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor."

It recommended that Malaysia's government fully implement and enforce anti-trafficking laws and increase prosecutions, convictions and sentences for both sex and labor trafficking.

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in an April report that illegal Burmese migrants deported from Malaysia were forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

Malaysia said it found no evidence to support the claim that thousands of deported Burmese migrants were handed over to human traffickers in Thailand.

The State Department report also expressed worry about worsening trafficking records in the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

These countries were placed on the State Department's "watch list" of trafficking offenders, joining China, India and Sri Lanka.

The State Department report tracks human trafficking for the sex trade, coerced labor and the recruitment of child soldiers. Researchers monitor efforts that countries take to stop trafficking, including prosecution, sentencing and programs to help victims.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Burmese Detainees in Danger

By SAW YAN NAING Saturday, July 11, 2009

The relocation of Burmese refugees in Malaysia could lead to worse human rights abuses as they would be isolated from outside world, rights advocacy groups in Malaysia said.

According to the rights groups, the Malaysia immigration authorities moved 598 Burmese refugees including women and children who were detained at Semenyih Immigration camp near Malaysia’s Kajang Township on Friday.

The move was likely due to the Malaysia authorities wanting to isolate the refugees from the outside world, while other sources said it was due to the riot between Burmese refugees and Malaysia camp authorities on July 1.

The riot broke out after camp authorities beat 30 detainees who were refusing to board a truck that was to take them to another camp. Eight Burmese detainees were wounded in the riot.

Aung Naing Thu, general secretary of the Malaysia-based rights advocacy group known as the Burma Youth of Nationalists Association said, “Now the Burmese refugees have been relocated to other places, they will be isolated, and the authorities will be able to do whatever the want, even torture them.”

Forty-eight out of more then 600 Burmese refugees who were detained in Semenyih detention camp were released on Monday, but 598 of them remained. Many of the remaining refugees are undocumented, said rights groups.

The released detainees said there had been many human rights abuses while they were in the camp. Months-old children and women and pregnant women were the most vulnerable, as the meals distributed in the detention camp lack nutrition, they said.

Thant Zin, a Burmese refugee who was released on Monday, said that only ten sick people are allowed to receive medical treatment per week.

“Many people who feel sick in the camp go without medical treatment. They are not allowed to see doctors,” said Thant Zin.

“The drinking water and the water used in the toilet come from the same source,” he added.

“If they find communication materials such as mobile phones, they brutally beat you,” said Thant Zin.

Immigration authorities regularly beat the detained Burmese refugees during inspections. Last week, two Burmese detainees were seriously beaten when they went to the clinic to ask for medicine.

One detainee was beaten around the eyes till they filled with blood and he became unable to see. The other detainee suffered from cigarette burns on his body and was said to be in serious condition.

A delegation from the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees in Malaysia is now investigating the riot, according to Yante Ismail, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, in Kuala Lumpur.

There are 22 detention camps in Malaysia, some of which are located in isolated areas on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Some refugees have spent years in the detention camps.

About 500,000 Burmese migrants work in Malaysia, legally and illegally, according to the Kuala Lumpur-based Burma Workers’ Rights Protection Committee.

2,425 Posts
Most are arrested in large-scale, late night raids conducted by the RELA.
current 'market rate' to free yourself when you got raided, caught is rm500 and you ll be instantly released by roadside. either you call your boss (when they allow) and hand out the money later at secluded place or if the business in the truck is no good, they might offer discount. Do it before you reach police stn, because once you r in there, big taikors turn. if your employer (treat you like his own son) and hv good connection with bukit aman, the chances is you ll get out by some handsome discount but still a four figure payment.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Published: Wednesday June 17, 2009 MYT 7:36:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 17, 2009 MYT 7:45:00 PM

US view on human trafficking in Msia ‘a fair account’


KUALA LUMPUR: The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2009 that downgraded Malaysia to the Tier 3 Watch List is a fair account of Malaysia’s “limited efforts” in trying to stem human trafficking, says a human rights activist.

“It is especially true in relation to labour trafficking, which is a form of slavery.

“Civil society has brought up this problem many times in dialogues with Suhakam (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) and the Bar Council,” said Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez.

“We have also had roundtable discussions with the government agencies but nothing has moved,” she said on Wednesday when asked to comment on the 324-page TIP report released in the United States on Tuesday that warned that those on the Watch List might face US sanctions.

Tier 3 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Listed with Malaysia are Burma (Myanmar), Chad, Cuba, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, the Republic of Niger, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Zimbabwe.

The TIP Report states that, as a regional economic leader approaching developed nation status, Malaysia has the resources and government infrastructure to do more to stem the tide of human trafficking.

It adds there were no visible measures taken by the Government to reduce the demand for forced labour or for commercial sex acts.

“For the last 15 years we have cautioned that allowing employers to withhold a workers’ passports opens them to exploitation and bondage but this has not been addressed,” said Fernandez.

She added there was a lack of transparency in investigations, for example, in the sale of refugees along the Thai-Malaysia border.

“The Government is in a state of denial. It should have at least engaged with us since we released the report on the sale of refugees in December but it has not happened,” she said.

Hookers for Singapore

Among the things Malaysia should do to improve its ranking would be to reform the recruiting and employment of migrant workers, better define their contracts and the structure of their employment clearly, said Fernandez.

“We also need to move in line with the standards set by the International Labour Organisation,” she said.

She confirmed the statement in the report that “some Malaysian women, primarily of Chinese ethnicity and from indigenous groups and rural areas, are trafficked abroad” to countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, France and Britain for “commercial sexual exploitation.”

“Yes, we know of Sabahan women who were trafficked to Singapore for commercial sexual exploitation but when we raised it with the Singaporean Government they told us it was not trafficking because prostitution was legalised there.

“There have also been cases of women from the hinterland in Sarawak being taken to the logging camps in the state for sexual exploitation,” she said.

A positive note for Malaysia in the report is the mention of Alice Nah under the section Heroes acting to end modern-day slavery.

Nah, who wrote about the trafficking of Myanmar refugees along the Malaysia-Thailand border, is a founding member of the Migration Working Group, a network of lawyers, academics, and volunteers focused on caring for, protecting and defending the rights of refugees and migrant workers who are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of forced labour.

In the main report and in the country narratives, Malaysia gets quite a lot of mention as a destination country and to a lesser extent as a source and transit country for either commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour (use ‘Malaysia’ as your search keyword).

Among the reasons for the downgrade from the Tier 2 Watch List were that the Malaysian government had:

*NOT fully addressed trafficking in persons issues, especially labour trafficking, although it took initial action under its Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, against sex trafficking;

*NOT arrested, prosecuted or convicted any immigration officials said to be involved in the trafficking and extorting of Myanmar refugees although the police and Prime Minister had confirmed there were investigations; and

*NOT developed mechanisms to screen effectively victims of trafficking from vulnerable groups.

Malaysia wants explanation

In an immediate response, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Malaysia would get the United States to “explain” why the country has been downgraded, reports MAZWIN NIK ANIS from PUTRAJAYA.

He said officials would be visiting the US Embassy to “get the real picture” on why Malaysia was placed on the list again.

“We want to determine what is the offending act or non-action on our part that warranted Malaysia being blacklisted.

“It is incumbent on us to address the issue because we have a responsibility to the international community as far as human trafficking is concerned.

“In fact, Malaysia, Australia and Britain are exploring the possibility of having a tripartite agreement on human trafficking to show our commitment to dealing with the issue,” he told reporters after chairing his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Last year, the report elevated Malaysia to a “watch list” from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was “making significant efforts” to comply with standards.

Hishammuddin said while the Government would do “whatever possible” to curb human trafficking, he admitted there were limitations, especially with Malaysia’s “vast borders and long shorelines.”

“Nevertheless, with most agencies involved in this being under my ministry, we will make adjustments to curb the problem. But first, we need to find more from them why we have been blacklisted,” he said.

His deputy, Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusof, took a stronger stance, saying that Malaysia should not have been put on the list and that the US Government was “unjustified” in doing so.

“We’re denying that Malaysia should be put on the list of human trafficking countries. It is not justifiable,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby, LOH FOON FONG and LESTER KONG report from KUALA LUMPUR.

Nonetheless, Abu Seman said his ministry would spearhead an inter-ministerial council to deal with human traffickers that use the country as a transit point.

The first Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly Caucus chairman Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (BN-Santubong) refuted the allegations that government officials were involved in human trafficking.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Five Immigration offices nabbed for human trafficking

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine people, including five Johor Immigration Department officers, were arrested in several locations in the state since Friday, for alleged involvement in an international human trafficking syndicate.

The suspects were believed to have received payments from a syndicate for the 'sale' of a group of people, comprising mostly Rohingya refugees, as forced labour in various sectors like the fisheries industry.

Bukit Aman CID director Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin said Monday the police had been monitoring the activities of the suspects, aged between 25 and 40, since March this year.

"According to a victim, the suspects were directly involved in human trafficking, starting from the Malaysia-Thai border to the rat trail believed to be their exit point to international countries.

"Upon reaching the exit point, the victims were handed over to a syndicate before being taken to a neighbouring country or sent back to Malaysia to work as forced labour," he told a press conference here.

The suspects have been remanded until Friday, and would be investigated under Section 13 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 which carries an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years and fine, if convicted.

Bakri said the suspects were believed to have worked closely with the syndicate which had been active since last year, adding that the police were in the midst of tracking down syndicate members and their accomplices.

Last month, the United States put Malaysia back on its list of countries suspected of not doing enough to combat human trafficking, together with six African countries, namely Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Mauritania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
- Bernama

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Published: Monday July 27, 2009 MYT 1:25:00 PM
Updated: Monday July 27, 2009 MYT 2:37:55 PM

Immigration officer accused of selling Myanmar man

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian Immigration official was charged with selling an illegal immigrant from Myanmar to human traffickers at the country’s border with Thailand, his lawyer said Monday.

Rahman Selamat, a senior immigration official from southern Johor state, pleaded innocent to human trafficking charges, his lawyer Wan Mohamad Fadzil Maamor said.

If found guilty, Rahman faces up to 15 years in prison. The court in northern Kelantan state refused bail for Rahman pending trial on Aug 25, Wan Mohamad Fadzil said. Further details were not immediately available.

Rahman was arrested July 17 with four other immigration officials and four bus drivers, who allegedly helped transport the migrants to the border.

Police said investigations showed the immigration officers sold an unspecified number of Myanmar migrants detained for living in Malaysia without valid travel documents to human traffickers at the Thai border for up to RM600 each.

The traffickers then allegedly took the migrants into Thailand and told them to pay RM2,000 each for their freedom, or they would be forced to work in the fishing industry, police said.

It was unclear if the other Malaysian officials or bus drivers accused of involvement would also be charged. The officials did not specify the ethnicity of the migrants, but most Myanmar people who try to enter Malaysia are ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

In April, a report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were forced to work in brothels, restaurants and on fishing boats in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

The United Nations refugee agency has registered more than 48,000 refugees in Malaysia, most from Myanmar. But community leaders estimate the number of Myanmar people in Malaysia is about twice that. -- AP

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
current 'market rate' to free yourself when you got raided, caught is rm500 and you ll be instantly released by roadside. either you call your boss (when they allow) and hand out the money later at secluded place or if the business in the truck is no good, they might offer discount. Do it before you reach police stn, because once you r in there, big taikors turn. if your employer (treat you like his own son) and hv good connection with bukit aman, the chances is you ll get out by some handsome discount but still a four figure payment.

It is quite surprising (and very sad) that so many Malaysians tend to focus on superficial stuffs like trying to impress foreigners with 'super toilets', Arab cities and on-the-surface ad campaigns but chooses to ignore subjects like this. Looks at the page view and respond for this thread.......

It is truly tragic that our ministers denied such things ever happen on our soil. Clearly many Malaysians only look at these foreigners as blue collar labourers and chooses to ignore their plight. For the past 5 years, I have interacted with many foreigners and of course each of them got a story to tell. A story of hope. A dream to find sanctuary in their own country first but if couldn't, hope to find it here. I had to tell them that they came to the wrong country. It is a sad answer......maybe a little too late for them but true.......

James > I did not know they lowered their market rate. The last time I heard was about RM700-800 on-the-spot settlement and of course four figure (if you are lucky) when at police station. Immigration detention centres are tricky but not impossible. :eek:hno:

Remember that places like Philippines, Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam used to be ahead of us both socially and economically. Political unrest and social disturbances rendered some of these states to poverty. We are nothing to be proud of as such situation could happen to us in the future if we are not careful. Who knows? We might pass the baton to the wrong people to govern and habislah if they screwed up. If you could reverse time, try going to Rangoon at the turn of the century. If you couldn't just try to Google it up. You'll be in for a surprise......

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Myanmar migrants stuck in Malaysia detention camps

SEPANG: A growing number of immigrants from Myanmar are ending up stuck, often for months, in crowded detention centers in Malaysia designed to hold people for only a few weeks.

Almost 2,800 Myanmarese were detained at camps in July, more than double the 1,200 in January, partly because of a crackdown on human trafficking, a step-up in raids and a slow economy that leaves the migrants without jobs.

People from Myanmar, a desperately poor country with a military junta, are now the biggest group among the 7,000 foreigners at detention centers in Malaysia.

At a center near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, some 120 men sat in neat rows on the floor.

Many had their legs drawn to their chests, and all were barefoot. There was not enough space and not enough bedding.

"There is no soap for taking a shower, nothing. They don't give us anything," said Kyaw Zin Lin, 23, who said he fled to avoid being drafted into the Myanmar army.

"Every day we eat the food just to survive. ... They treat us like animals."

"It's very difficult to stay here," said Aung Kuh The, a pale 26-year-old.

"We have got a lot of problems. Some people, you know, we want to see the doctor but we don't have the chance."

One reason for the rise in detainees is a crackdown on trafficking.

A report published in April by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations cited firsthand accounts of Myanmarese who said immigration officers turned them over to traffickers.

That practice has all but stopped, Myanmar community leaders in Malaysia say.

Now, though, the Myanmarese are trapped in detention.

The Myanmar embassy often takes six months to register its citizens for deportation and charges them 620 ringgit ($180), much more than neighboring Indonesia.

By contrast, detainees from other countries are typically deported within a week.

Calls to the Myanmar embassy were repeatedly put on hold and then unanswered.

About half the Myanmarese - those fleeing persecution - may qualify for UN refugee status, but that process takes up to four months.

The others are economic migrants. Some 140,000 Myanmarese work in Malaysia, but foreign workers who are laid off lose the right to stay.

Some Myanmarese have spent more than six months in crowded, dirty detention centers.

One man, whose brother was in detention for four months, said he would rather be sold to traffickers from whom he could buy his freedom.

"I prefer to be trafficked," said the man, who would only be identified by his nickname, Ryan, to protect his relatives in Myanmar.

"I don't mind paying 2,000 ringgit ($570)."

Five of Malaysia's 13 detention centers are overcrowded; four of the five have large Myanmarese populations, according to the immigration department.

Journalists from The Associated Press accompanied the human rights group Amnesty International on a rare visit recently to three detention centers just south of Kuala Lumpur, the country's biggest city.

At the Lenggeng Detention Depot, 1,400 people are crammed into dormitories meant for 1,200. Of them about 300 are from Myanmar.

Hundreds of men jostle each other for room in the bare dormitories. One sleeps on a stone ledge in a bathroom.

Each dormitory is fenced by wire mesh and barbed wire, giving detainees just a few meters (feet) of space for walking.

"The detention centers we saw fell short of international standards in many respects, as the immigration authorities themselves acknowledge," said Michael Bochenek of Amnesty International.

"It's a facility of such size that infectious diseases are communicated readily."

Saw Pho Tun, a refugee community leader, said some immigration officers have singled out Myanmarese detainees for rough treatment, beating them and not allowing them medical assistance.

Immigration officials deny beating detainees and say everyone has access to medical care.

On July 1, detainees at another center flung their food trays and damaged some of the mesh fence.

Immigration officials blamed the riot on frustration about having to stay so long, but detainees say they rioted because they were afraid of abuse.

Most of the blocks have now been shut for repairs, so more than 1,000 detainees - including 700 from Myanmar - were transferred to other already crowded centers.

Abdul Rahman Othman, the director general of the Immigration Department, said he was taking steps to prevent his officers from being "entangled" in trafficking syndicates.

He said officers would be rotated to different posts every three years and have a buddy system to supervise each other.

"Ninety-nine percent of us in immigration are good people," he said, denying the problem is widespread.

Police arrested five officers on trafficking allegations last month.

They say their investigations revealed immigration officials took Myanmar immigrants to the Thai border and sold them for up to 600 ringgit ($170) to traffickers.

The traffickers then told the migrants to pay 2,000 ringgit ($570) for their freedom, or they would be forced to work in the fishing industry, police said.

Myanmar community leaders said women who failed to pay were sold into prostitution. - AP

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
No refuge

OCT 18 – Her eyes are empty as she stares into the distance. She balances a child on her body, wrapped in a sarong. His eyes are lively, piercing, looking directly at us. He leans forward, engaging with us, while all she wants to do, it seems, is disappear. She looks numb – tired of pain, fear, insecurity – it is clear she does not want to be here.

Next to her is a woman with glistening eyes. She looks worried, harried, preoccupied. Her child lies behind her on a makeshift bed, sick with malaria. They live in a basic wooden hut, afraid of the police, unable to afford medical care.

At least she still has her child. Next to her is the portrait of another woman in a jungle camp, whose desperate features tell us of the deep wounds in her soul. We are told that she was catatonic and traumatized when she first arrived. She lost her entire family while fleeing from Burma to Malaysia – she lost her children while crossing a river.

These are some of the refugees that photojournalist Halim Berbar has encountered. In another photograph, he captured a group of women praying fervently before a sickly boy. The caption reads: “A group of women pray in the jungle camp for a boy who was stricken with malaria. The boy passed away a few days after this photo was taken.”

Halim Berbar’s photos are on display at the Annexe, part of an exhibition of the work of five photographers entitled “No Refuge: Burmese Refugees in Malaysia”. Each photographer highlights different angles to the complex lives of refugees trying to survive in a hostile environment. Together they weave a compelling visual narrative of pain and loss, desperation and hope.

Simon Wheatley’s collection focuses on the complexities and ironies of urban life – the strange mix of loneliness with overcrowding, the tensions that arise while socializing in enclosed spaces, the (dis)comfort caused by the sharing of run-down apartments, made necessary by expensive rent, meager pay and unstable jobs.

In one of his photos, feet pile upon feet as people sleep close together in order to save rent. In another, a pregnant woman sits silent and alone, lost in her thoughts, while on the other side of the wall, a man sits looking just a lost. In another photo, a crowd gathers around the body of a man killed by a local gangster and abandoned on the street. They look distressed. Newspapers are strewn haphazardly over his body, covering him only partially.

Greg Constantine’s photos show the immediacy of the risks that refugees face. Without legal status in Malaysia, they are arrested regularly through Rela and Immigration raids. His photos show raids in progress – Rela officers demanding for identity papers, scared refugees locked in vehicles ready to be transported to detention centres.

He captures the bleak desperation felt by those separated from their family members arrested in raids. He has a photo of a photo of a man with scarred buttocks. The permanent welt caused by the tremendous power of a thick cane will remain with him for life, a constant reminder of the punishment given to those who dare to seek refuge in Malaysia.

Rahman Roslan shows the uncertainties and dangers of working at night markets. In one photo, a woman looks on helplessly as local authorities confiscate the vegetables she intended to sell. Replacing her stock is expensive. Hers are the cry of any mother: “Where can I get money? How can I feed my kids?”

Another photo shows the power-relations between uniformed officers conducting raids, their firm stance in stark contrast to a man pleading for leniency, his eyes wide open and hands gesturing to obtain their understanding. In another photo, a man stands alone, looking down, dejected.

Zhuang Wubin captures the experiences of children who live in an environment they do not fully understand. In one photo, a boy is angry at being awakened early in the morning. They need to go early to the UNHCR in order to board a plane to New Zealand. They are one of the fortunate few who will ever get resettled from Malaysia. He does not fully comprehend how this day will mark the beginning of a new life in a different world.

In other photos, children play games to pass time as they stay in urban apartments that double up as schools. It is safer to be indoors than on the street, for they too, can get arrested.

Wubin’s photos also show the significance of community life in affirming the worth of a person. Refugees come together to eat, to pray, to mourn, and to celebrate. They mark beginnings and endings in their lives together, lives unseen by most and made unworthy by some.

With great sensitivity and compassion, these five photographers show us the breadth and depth of the lives of refugees in Malaysia – their joys and sorrows, their longing and loss. They show us the tremendous courage and strength of spirit required for refugees to live every day without legal status and without the recognition and protection of the Malaysian government.

If you have the time, go to the Annexe Gallery at Central Market to witness the lives of the refugees who struggle to live amongst us. And if your heart compels you, sign the petition spearheaded by Suaram to call for Malaysia to sign the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is Malaysians who must call upon our government to protect the vulnerable. It begins with us.

“No Refuge” is jointly presented by Suaram and Annexe Gallery. It will be on display until Oct 25. Admission is free. A talk by photographers and activists will be held at 3pm on Sunday, Oct 18, to highlight the realities of the lives of refugees.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Malaysians do not welcome migrant workers, says UN agency

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 – Malaysians are least in favour of welcoming migrant workers, according to a survey conducted as part of a UN agency’s development report.

The report examines local attitudes towards migrants and a survey was conducted in 46 countries. Malaysia came out the lowest in terms of favoring or welcoming migrant workers.

“Malaysia has had a long history of receiving refugees. In May itself, there was an approximate 45,000 asylum seekers. Now, there are 65,000 registered in the country,” said Alan Vernon, Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

However, he said, there is a specific need for governments to recognise the distinction between refugees and migrant workers.

“Migrant workers move from one place to another to seek opportunities. Refugees, on the other hand, are forced to relocate or move to escape persecution and survival. Refugees do not have the option of going home,” said Vernon.

Many of the refugees currently residing in the country come from either politically unstable or war-ravaged countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

One of the main concerns regarding refugees and migrant workers rights in Malaysia are that their rights are not guaranteed since the Malaysian government is not a signatory to the UN Human Rights Convention.

Malaysia has also yet to sign the UN Convention on Refugees, and therefore does not officially recognise refugees.

“There has been a lot of cooperation with the Immigration Department to address the issue.

“But since refugees cannot work legally, most of them cannot afford the proper healthcare needed,” said the UNHCR spokesman.

Florida Sandanasamy, programme coordinator for migrant rights protection in Tenaganita, said that the influx of people coming into the country was not a choice on their part, but more of a necessity.

“Malaysia is known for taking in the largest number of refugees and migrant workers in Asia,” said Florida.

She stated that since there are no proper international conventions in the country for recognising and ensuring migrant rights, many of them end up being exploited by employers.

“In 2007, many workers were left stranded in KLIA after finding out that there were no job opportunities for them. Many of them were also subsequently deported without being given a chance.

“They spent so much money in just coming to the country. By not giving them equal opportunity, they go back even more in debt.”

She also lashed out at the government for putting the Home Ministry in charge of migrant affairs instead of the Human Resource ministry.

Kamal Malhotra, UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei noted that it was incumbent upon the Malaysian government to provide policies to accommodate migrants and refugees.

“A much greater awareness and education about the benefits of migration should be implemented. Foreign workers have brought about a lot of benefits to the economy.

“For instance, it is clear that a lot of Malaysian women rely on domestic helpers or maids to help them so that they can be part of the workforce,” explained Kamal.

He also noted that Malaysia’s non-receptiveness towards foreign workers could be traced to the drastic rise of immigrants in a short period of time.

12,998 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Far from family, young female refugees from Myanmar find friendship

News Stories, 7 March 2007

A group of refugee women in Malaysia. Several hundred female refugees under the age of 18 are in Malaysia on their own and finding others to live with can provide them with a surrogate family in exile.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (UNHCR) – Two teenagers sip iced tea at a roadside stall in Kuala Lumpur, their conversation peppered with laughter. But despite their happy demeanour, the two young women have suffered a lot and face an uncertain future far away from their families in Myanmar.

Sarah and Rachel fled Myanmar two year ago at the age of 15 to escape a very real threat of sexual and physical abuse and they have been struggling to find their footing in Malaysia ever since. Their story is not uncommon.

"In the refugee world, we often encounter the unfortunate situation where refugee children end up on their own in the host country because their parents were unable to leave for a variety of reasons or because they got separated from them during flight," said Volker Turk, UNHCR representative in Malaysia.

In most cases, a relative or a friend takes care of them, but sometimes they are completely on their own. "For these children, in particular girls, their age and gender make them especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and we must do everything to prevent that from happening," Turk added.

UNHCR has registered some 43,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. About 4,000 are females aged under 18, and half of them are in the country on their own, while some 27,000 of the total come from Myanmar.

With International Women's Day on Thursday, UNHCR is putting a spotlight on uprooted females and reaffirming its commitment to prioritising women's and girl's protection risks and support gender equality. This year's theme is, "Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls."

Sarah and Rachel met last year while taking part in a UNHCR-organised hairdressing course that they hope will increase their chances of finding a decent job. Their similar experiences in Myanmar and Malaysia and their shared sense of loneliness have brought the girls very close together.

Both were happily studying at school when their lives were overturned by violence, or the threat of violence and sexual abuse; both had a traumatic time leaving the country; and both have experienced hard times in Malaysia.

"People often say I was very brave because I was so young to be travelling without family, but I had no choice," said Sarah. "Unknown men had come to my house and ordered me to work for them. But I was sick and I said I could not do it. They beat me up. The villagers were afraid to help and they told my father that I should leave the village because the men will come back looking for me."

In Rachel's case, her mother arranged for the girl and her sister to leave after armed men raped her sibling and threatened to come back. The two sisters were separated during their trip. "I was physically and emotionally sick for a long time after I arrived because I had never been separated from my family before," Rachel recalled.

To pay off the outstanding amount on her family's debt, Sarah said she was forced to work for the agent who had arranged for her to be smuggled into Malaysia. "I cleaned, washed and did other household chores, but there were many male tenants living in the house and I felt uncomfortable," said Sarah, who alleged that she was physically and verbally abused.

She moved out last year after finding work at a Japanese restaurant, but quit this job when the manager asked her to entertain clients in a new karaoke room. Rachel, meanwhile, works in a restaurant for a minimal wage. The hours are long, but she is glad to have a job.

Despite the hardships, both girls believe things have taken a turn for the better and – despite low moments – they remain optimistic about the future. They have also found a surrogate family – brought together at the UNHCR hairdressing course, Sarah and Rachel and other asylum seekers from Myanmar share a flat run by a local community group.

"I think about going home, but I can't right now," said Rachel. "I want to be educated and become a nurse. In the small village I come from, I have seen many poor people die because they didn't have access to medication, doctors or nurses. I want to take care of these kinds of people whether they are in Myanmar or anywhere else in the world."

For the time being, she hopes to use the skills picked up during the two month UNHCR course to make enough money to live on and, one day, pay for a college course. The course was aimed at giving new marketable skills to young refugee women from countries like Myanmar and Indonesia.

"I was really interested in the programme even though I had never considered becoming a hairdresser," said Rachel. "When we began, I didn't know anyone in the class but by the end we were all friends."

By Yante Ismail in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

6,207 Posts
For a country that already treats its own citizens unfairly, I wonder how resources can be channeled to help foreigners who have plight in Malaysia. Also, Malaysians are also too caught up in their own survival to even give a hoot to suffering foreigners on our soil. I think Malaysia should first treat its own citizens better and then enact laws to protect foreigners, such that they are not abused or taken advantage of by greedy and irresponsible Malaysians. Our country's image is fast being tarnished when it comes to authorities recognizing human lives and rights. Even in the past, Vietnamese refugees or boat people that landed on our soil did not get to live among us. Instead, they were usually holed up on some tiny island as if they were lepers and then they were either deported back home (some probably ended up in jail, tortured or even killed?), and others just moved on to a 3rd country that would welcome them. Other than Indonesians and immigrants with lots of money, Malaysia is not a place for people seeking to migrate to and settle down.
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.