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
More than 10 killed, dozens wounded in Indonesian church bombings
- A family of six—including young children—launched coordinated suicide bombings at three church sites in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.
- Targeting a Catholic church, a Pentecostal church, and the Indonesian Christian Church, the attacks left at least 13 dead and 40 wounded.
- The attack came as the Islamic State has stepped up recruitment in the Southeast Asia region, with police reporting that the family was among the 500 Islamic State sympathizers returning from Syria.
“IS-linked family responsible for Surabaya bombings, police say” (The Jakarta Post | May 2018)
“Family of IS-inspired suicide bombers attack Indonesian churches, at least 13 dead” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Indonesia attacks: How Islamic State is galvanising support” (BBC News | May 2018)
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)
Singaporean gay man denied adoption rights for biological child
- A Singapore court ruled against a man seeking to adopt his biological son mothered by a surrogate in the U.S.
- The man, currently in a same-sex relationship, pursued international surrogacy due to his remote chances at adoption in Singapore, where male same-sex relations are still illegal.
- Surrogacy is prohibited and in-vitro services available only to married couples in Singapore, leading many Singaporean couples both same- and different-sex couples to seek assisted reproduction services abroad.
“Singapore court rejects gay man’s bid to adopt biological son” (NBC News | December 2017)
“More Singapore couples seeking surrogacy services” (The Straits Times | December 2017)
“Gay Singaporean loses bid to adopt biological son fathered via surrogate” (Agence France-Presse, via AsiaOne | December 2017)
Reporters arrested in Myanmar following Rohingya coverage
- Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the outskirts of Yangon after working on stories related to the military crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine state.
- The Ministry of Information said the reporters faced charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for having “illegally acquired information” for dissemination to foreign media.
- The event has prompted international condemnation, including by the United Nations, foreign governments, international journalism organizations, and press freedom advocates.
“Factbox: International reaction to arrest of Reuters reporters in Myanmar” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Analysis: Government Turning Back the Clock on Press Freedom” (The Irrawaddy | December 2017)
“UN chief calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists” (CNN | December 2017)
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)