Rohingya refugees in Malaysia fear persecution if repatriated

Rohingyas sought refuge in a number of countries including Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 24 October 2018
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Rohingya refugees in Malaysia fear persecution if repatriated

  • Rohingya refugees who spoke to Arab News anonymously fear that their lives will be at stake if the Malaysian Government decided to send them back to Myanmar

KUALA LUMPUR: Rohingyas in Malaysia fear that their lives are in danger if they are repatriated from the country by next year.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told the press on Monday that his ministry is working closely with foreign ministers from other ASEAN countries to discuss in detail the best way possible for sending back 1 million Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Special Taskforce is led by Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The taskforce will head to Myanmar at the end of this month to kick-start the process of helping the Rohingya community to return to their homeland.

“We do not know how fast this process can be implemented, but it should be initiated, for as long as it does not start the problem involving the Rohingya refugees will persist,” said Saifuddin.

“It is important for us to help these people return to their home country, as otherwise it would be condoning the ‘ethnic cleansing’ which is currently happening,” he added.

However, Rohingya refugees who spoke to Arab News anonymously fear that their lives will be at stake if the Malaysian Government decided to send them back to Myanmar.

Rahman (not his real name) told Arab News that he is bemused with the statement by the Malaysian foreign minister as Malaysia has been very supportive of the Rohingya and has criticized in many international conferences the atrocities by the Myanmar military toward them.

“I am confused because Malaysia has played a significant role in helping the Rohingya. They have set up hospitals at the Bangladesh refugee camp, providing aid and food,” said Rahman.

“Suddenly the minister said that next year Rohingya will be repatriated. I don’t know how it is possible they are going to do this.”

The Malaysian Government has yet to reveal how it will send back Rohingya refugees without putting their lives at risk.

Malaysia is not a signatory country to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and thus does not recognize refugees. However, during the recent Malaysian speech at the UN General Assembly, the Southeast Asian nation vowed to ratify all the remaining UN conventions.

There are more than 160,000 refugees in Malaysia, in which 77,130 Rohingya are registered under the UNHCR Persons of Concern in Malaysia. However, with a large amount of undocumented refugees, the number may be estimated at more than 100,000 persons.

Malaysia is a primary destination for Rohingya because it is a Muslim country with a long-standing Rohingya community. Many who arrived here would usually would bring their families.

The majority of the Rohingya refugees live in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, resorting to hard labor in the manufacturing and services industries as illegal workers, as refugees are not permitted to work. As a result, they live in deplorable conditions without proper health care, education or basic needs.

“There is no safe place in Myanmar now,” Rahman told Arab News. Recent reports by the UN fact-finding mission affirmed the crimes against humanity amounting to genocide that Myanmar has committed against the Rohingya community. The silence of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, on the issue has further dented the country’s reputation on human rights protection.

“Of course, I will go back to my homeland with rights and dignity, if Myanmar stops killing my people and grants me citizenship,” said Rahman.


India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

Updated 3 min 48 sec ago
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India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

  • Priyanka Gandhi wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency

VARANASI, INDIA: The newest star in India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency to attack the prime minister's record.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sister of Rahul Gandhi who wants to unseat Modi in elections starting on April 11, announced her long-awaited entry into politics in January, bolstering the hopes of the opposition Congress party, which has been dominated by her family for generations.
Their father was Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991, their grandmother Indira Gandhi, killed by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and their great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
Arriving after her three-day cruise in Varanasi, the northern holy city famous for its riverside cremations where Modi stood for election in 2014, Priyanka said people must stand up against his "anti-people" policies.
"You can bring about a change. You must raise your voice for a new government who will make policies for you and understand your problems," the 47-year-old said.
"The farmers of this country are suffering. He is neck-deep in debt and is committing suicide. He does not get seeds and fertilisers on time, he is not getting the right price for his produce," she added.
The opposition has been targeting Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a lack of jobs, slowing growth and the desperate situation of farmers in the lead-up to the gargantuan election which ends May 19.
The centre-left Congress party, which has ruled India for about half a century since the country became independent in 1947, was thrashed by the BJP five years ago, with Modi promising to create jobs, stamp out corruption, and bring "Achhe Din" ("Good Days").
Modi's party however has been boosted after India and arch-rival Pakistan lurched alarmingly close to war last month following a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.
Priyanka, who for years resisted calls to enter politics, launched her campaign in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Monday, hopping on to a motorboat on the Ganges river, which is considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu community.
The state is a part of the Hindi "cow belt" heartland of some 475 million people — nearly as many as the United States, Canada and Mexico combined — where the BJP has its core support base.