The Hardships of Refugees in Malaysia
Although Malaysia has long offered refuge to persecuted Muslim populations, Malaysian law does not distinguish between asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants. As a consequence, refugees experience high levels of legal precarity, severely limiting access to healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities. Immigration police frequently raid businesses in search of undocumented workers, and children are frequently pushed into work because of an educational system with limited resources to accommodate them. While more than 164,000 refugees in Malaysia are officially registered with the UN Refugee Agency, many more languish in the long registration queue. Today, activists are working to pressure the recently installed government to become a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to improve protections and access to opportunity for those seeking life and livelihood in the wake of war and persecution.
“‘We have nothing’: A life in limbo for Malaysia’s Yemeni refugees” (Al Jazeera | March 2019)
“Inside Malaysia’s ‘Living Hell’ for Refugee Children” (NewsDeeply | February 2018)
UNHCR Figures at a Glance in Malaysia
Evidence of Rohingya massacre by security forces deepens crisis in Myanmar
- The Associated Press uncovered evidence of a military-led mass killing of a Rohingya community in late August that left at least 75 and as many as 400 dead.
- The report detailed documentary evidence of at least five mass graves in and near the village of Gu Dar Pyin along with videos and survivor reports of acid use to attempt to cover up the massacre.
- While the Burmese government insists it is only targeting “terrorists” and denies mass killings, the international community is facing growing pressure to declare ongoing state violence against the Rohingya a genocide.
“AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar” (The Associated Press | February 2018)
“Evidence of Rohingya mass graves uncovered in Myanmar” (Al Jazeera | February 2018)
“Myanmar denies report of new mass graves in Rakhine” (Reuters | February 2018)
More than a half-million Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar
- Since August, nearly 520,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from their homes in Myanmar into Bangladesh, and dozens—many of them children—have died attempting to reach Bangladesh by boat.
- Refugees spoke of attacks by the military and Buddhist vigilantes, including the burning of villages and physical assaults throughout the state of Rakhine.
- The U.N. has condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Burmese state, which targeted Rohingya communities following an attack by Rohingya militants on a military outpost.
“‘I can’t take this any more:’ Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar in new surge” (Reuters | October 2017)
“Rohingya crisis: Children die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh” (BBC News | October 2017)
“Bangladesh to build one of world’s largest refugee camps for 800,000 Rohingya” (The Guardian | October 2017)
Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar for Bangladesh as violence spreads
- Clashes between government forces and militants have left at least 130 dead and sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.
- Some reports indicated those attempting to cross the border were gunned down or had their boats pushed away.
- The district at the border has been locked down by Burmese soldiers, cutting off aid agencies and independent observers as reports of mass rape and looting have trickled out.
“Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar army crackdown to Bangladesh: sources” (Reuters)
“Hundreds of Rohingya try to escape Myanmar crackdown” (BBC News)
“Violence in Burma Has Sent Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims Fleeing to Bangladesh” (TIME)
Women report mass rapes and looting by military as violence against Rohingya explodes in northwest Myanmar
- Locals from U Shey Kya village allege that soldiers stormed their homes, committed mass rape, stole valuables, and burned homes, accusations dismissed as “illogical” and “propaganda” by governmental spokespeople.
- The raids in northern Rakhine State follow coordinated attacks by an emergent group of Rohingya militants on multiple border patrol posts, leading to nine police officers’ and five soldiers’ deaths.
- Many homes in the village were left with only women after men evacuated from fear of being indiscriminately identified as insurgents, with many fearing disregard of recently imposed political constraints on the Burmese military.
“Exclusive: Rohingya women say Myanmar soldiers raped them amid crackdown on militants” (Reuters)
“Dozens of rapes reported in northern Rakhine State” (The Myanmar Times)
“Calls Grow for Access to Western Myanmar in Face of Military Lockdown” (The New York Times)
(Image Credit: Ye Aung Thu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)
Anti-Muslim protests in Myanmar increase following new government installation
- Hundreds of Buddhist nationalists staged anti-Muslim protests ahead of a visit from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who took up the issue of the persecution of Myanmar’s Muslim minority with state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
- “No Muslims allowed” signs and anti-Muslim patrols have popped up in villages like Thaungtan, with those even suspected of being Muslim harassed and assaulted.
- State counselor Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly instructed U.S. diplomats not to use the term “Rohingya,” echoing Buddhist nationalists who consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants and Muslims and Hindus “associate citizens.”
“‘No Muslims allowed’: how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar” (The Guardian)
“Myanmar Nationalists Stage Protest in Mandalay Against Use of Term ‘Rohingya’ by U.S.” (Radio Free Asia)
“‘No Rohingya’: Behind the US Embassy Protest in Myanmar” (The Diplomat)
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters, via The Guardian)
Rohingya politician barred from re-election as hundreds of thousands find themselves struck from voting rolls
- Lawmaker U Shwe Maung, a member of Myanmar’s governing party, was informed by the country’s electoral commission of his ineligibility to run for re-election.
- The commission claimed Shwe Maung was not a citizen, the result of Myanmar’s recent invalidation of the identity cards held by the majority of the country’s Rohingya population.
- The mass disenfranchisement of Rohingya has compromised the integrity of the upcoming November elections, which will be the first to include a democratically led party to compete with the military-backed governing party.
“This is the government really stripping them of their last right. … It suits the government’s long-term plan of compelling them to leave.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
A Forked Path for Rohingya Women, with Both Roads Leading to Hell
Trapped in a desperate situation compounded by their gender, Rohingya women–already facing persecution as a Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar–find themselves forced into either marriage or prostitution by human traffickers in Southeast Asia. The New York Times profiles one of their stories and the efforts of one advocate to bring light to the issue.
View the New York Times feature on YouTube.
Ahead of Myanmar elections, concerns mount over extremist tactics among Buddhist nationalists as memories of recent violence persist
- Hundreds were killed in 2012 and 2013 in clashes between Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and Muslim minority, particularly in the western state of Rakhine.
- Politicians are leery of alienating Buddhist-majority constituents by condemning the violence, but face international pressure to speak up for ethnic and religious minorities.
- Myanmar transitioned to semi-democratic rule in 2012, but with uneven rights to expression and anxiety over the upcoming elections, non-Buddhists (particularly Muslims) are fearful for their security.
More on this story at Reuters.
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
The NY Times has published a graphically enhanced look at the global migration crisis that is being called the worst since World War II
- 38 million have been displaced within their own countries, while 16.7 million refugees have fled internationally.
- Roughly 11 million Syrians and 3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced, while 4 million Syrians have left the country, straining the intake abilities of neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
- Approximately 25,000 Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants have been trafficked via sea in Southeast Asia, some finding conditional acceptance in Indonesia and Malaysia and others being repatriated.
- To date, around 78,000 have traveled across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa and Turkey, fleeing violence, persecution, and poor economic prospects in North, West, and East Africa.
- Finally, the conflict in Ukraine has displaced 1.3 million inside the country and sent 867,000 abroad, mostly to Russia with few European countries willing to accept them.
More on this story at The New York Times.
The first refugees arrive in Cambodia as part of Australia’s controversial program resettling asylum seekers from its offshore detention center.
- Political opposition leaders and human rights advocates criticize the government’s harsh stance against refugees and their resettlement in an under-resourced country with a poor rights records.
- Australia has offered Cambodia A$40 million as part of the resettlement deal.
- Despite cash incentives, few refugees have taken up the Australian government on its offer.
More on this story at Reuters.
Local and national politics in Myanmar plays upon and is at times driven by society’s anti-Rohingya sentiment (and anti-Muslim sentiment more generally). More from Al Jazeera.
Former Vietnamese refugees call for sympathy for Rohingya refugees, sharing their own stories. More from Al Jazeera.
Myanmar releases first national census in 30 years but excludes Rohingya from numbers. More from Reuters.
The Dalai Lama calls on Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out against the country’s persecution of the Rohingya. More from Al Jazeera.