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Since descending upon New Delhi more than a month ago, ethnic Rohingyas from Myanmar have been rounded up twice by police and ordered to leave, but the stateless group is determined to get the Indian government to recognize them as refugees.

“India is a great democracy, and that is why we want to stay here,” said Ziaur Rehman, who heads the group of Rohingya asylum seekers who have been camping in India’s capital since April 9 to lobby the government for refugee status.

Mr. Rehman spoke to India Ink on Wednesday from the Okhla neighborhood in south Delhi. Until Tuesday morning, he, along with an estimated 2,500 people originally from the Rakhine state in Myanmar, had been living in a makeshift camp near Vasant Kunj in southwest Delhi. This was the second time that the Rohingya had been forced to move since they arrived in the capital. Initially, they had squatted outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the upscale Vasant Vihar area for nearly a month. They were demanding “refugee status, help with access to health care, school admissions for their children, resettlement and financial assistance,” said Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer for the organization in New Delhi.piece of land upon which they had pitched their tarpaulin tents in Vasant Kunj belonged to the government, but their presence raised the ire of the local residents in the wealthy South Delhi neighborhood and resulted in the asylum seekers’ eviction. The police packed them into trucks and dropped them off at several locations, including the Delhi railway station and the main interstate bus terminal in Kashmiri Gate in north Delhi, Mr. Rehman said.

India is not a signatory to the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, which defines who qualifies as a refugee and refugees’ rights in their host country. Since there is no national law that deals with foreign refugees, the government will decide whether or not to grant the Rohingyas refugee status on a case-by-case basis.

Asylum seekers can be given the United Nations refugee cards, but only at the discretion of the UN agency. The Rohingyas said that the agency told them that the process of granting such cards could take time.

The Muslim minority group has suffered persecution for decades in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. A large number of Rohingya have fled to neighboring countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, and several thousand have entered India through Bangladesh.

Some of these people who gathered in the Indian capital have been living in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad and Rajasthan, for several years. “They first approached the UNHCR in 2009,” Ms. Bose said, referring to the refugee agency, “but many have lived for longer periods of time in India.”

The Rohingya presence in India is not officially documented, as they have not officially registered with the government’s foreigner offices. Only 1,800 Rohingyas have registered with the United Nations, while several thousand are estimated to be living in India.

A spokesman from the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said that unlike people from other nationalities, like the Afghans or Tibetans, who have been living in India, the Rohingya are stateless. “They are not accepted as citizens in Myanmar,” he said.
When India Ink visited the Rohingya camp last week near Vasant Kunj, several people flashed laminated white cards, which they said had been issued by the Myanmar government, that described the cardholders as “state guests” – meaning they were not entitled to any citizens’ rights in Myanmar.

The deserted Mr. Rehman said the Rohingyas had been imported as laborers from across the world during the British colonial rule in then-Burma, but they have never been recognized as citizens by the country.

Like many others in the camp, he landed in the northern Indian city of Jammu in 2011 after he crossed the border from Bangladesh, where several other Rohingyas worked as day laborers. After working as a medical assistant at a hospital in Jammu for three months, he moved on to Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and taught at madrasas, or schools where instruction is based on the teachings of the Koran.

Other Rohingyas call the popular Mr. Rehman “doctor” even though he attended school only up to grade 10 in Myanmar. “They did not let us study any further,” he said, referring to the government.

The Rohingyas who approached the United Nations refugee agency have been issued asylum-seeker cards, which are valid for only four years from their date of issue. While that is the only proof of identification that they have in India, many of them say that it is useless.

Nazeer Hussain, 28, who worked as a laborer in Jammu, said, “Police in the state harassed me, asking me what my father’s name was, as this card does not have his name written on it.”

He said he was not paid for his work and that the United Nations asylum seeker card did not help resolve anything. “We will not leave till we get the refugee card,” he said.

The United Nations agency’s chief of mission, Montserrat Feixas Vihe, who met with representatives from the Rohingya community on Tuesday, said in a statement that the Indian government will be issuing long-term stay visas for asylum seekers from northern Rakhine state who are registered with the agency.

But G.V. Venugopala Sarma, the joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs who deals with foreigners, said the Rohingyas need to go back to the Indian cities in which they were residing and register with the foreign regional registration office. The superintendent of police in their city, who serves as the foreign registration officer, will conduct a thorough verification based on the internal guidelines of the government of India, he said.

“Only after such a verification, a case-by-case assessment will be made whether the person has a well-founded fear of persecution or it is purely for economic reasons they want to seek the refugee status,” Mr. Sarma said. After that, a decision will be made on whether or not they will be granted a long-term visa, he added.

He defended the way the Indian government has dealt with refugees in the past, saying, “India has always had an impeccable record of taking care of refugees of all kinds in a humane manner.”

The Rohingya presence in New Delhi has not gone unnoticed by politicians. On Wednesday, the home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, was questioned in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house of the Parliament, by a fellow member, Balbir Punj, about the Rohingya camp in the capital.

“They demanded that they should be given refugee cards by the UNHCR,” said Mr. Chidambaram, “under the mistaken impression that the UNHCR will give a refugee card to anyone, who has come from any other country, and that the card will give them access to a number of benefits. Perhaps, they were misguided by some people. They have all been persuaded to go back to the places from which they came.”

Another member of Parliament, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told the home minister: “If people from other religions have been allowed and Muslims have been denied, then it is very unfair.”

Mr. Chidambaram denied that there was any discrimination against the Rohingya asylum seekers on religious grounds.

As the politicians debate the plight of the Rohingyas’, the Rohingyas have defied the authorities as they continue to stay put in New Delhi, at least for now.

Asad Ghazi Ansari, the president of the nongovernmental organization Nawa-e-Haque, which has been helping the Rohingyas with food and medicine, said that most of the Rohingyas returned from where the police had left them.

On Wednesday, about 500 of them had assembled in Batla House, in the Okhla neighborhood in south Delhi, on what Mr. Ansari called “community land,” which meant that the land belonged to members of the Muslim community.

He said that his organization is making arrangements to get the other Rohingya together and set up another makeshift camp for them at Batla House.

“The issue was discussed in the Parliament today,” Mr. Ansari said. “As the movement is gaining momentum, we won’t let it die.”

Muhammad Rafique can't deny his hopes have been boosted by the Malaysia deal, but tears well up in his eyes as he explains that 15 years as a refugee have taught him not to be so foolish as to trust such feelings.

On the walls inside the squalid shack where he lives with his wife and young child are a map of Burma and a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The 34-year-old, an ethnic Rohingya who arrived in Malaysia from Burma when he was 19, is desperate to know whether he and his family might be among the 4000 refugees that will be resettled in Australia.

Under the deal signed in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, Australia will resettle 1000 bona-fide refugees a year over four years, in exchange for Malaysia taking the next 800 asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat.

But Rafique and his family are just three among more than 90,000 refugees in Malaysia.

"I want to go to Australia with my family. I hope to have a chance to go to Australia," he said.

It's obvious when he speaks that he sees their chances as bleak.

His English is poor and, having been a refugee for his entire adult life, Rafique has no skills.

He believes his chances are even poorer because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which will have input into who makes it into the 4000, "doesn't like to send Muslim people to Australia".

"I am worried the UNHCR don't want to pick me and my family. I fear the UNHCR will not want to listen to me."

Unlike the 800 asylum seekers that will be transferred from Australia, Rafique has no rights to work or access to education.

He has little access to health care, and like many of the refugees waiting in a long queue in Malaysia, Rafique suffers from anxiety and depression brought on by the parlous life he and his family live, and their uncertain future.

A study by the non-government organisation, Health Equity and Initiatives (HEI), in March this year found that 70 per cent of asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia suffered symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress as a result of human trafficking, forced labour and unemployment.

Xavier Pereira, the director of HEI, said the figure was three times higher than in any normal population.

"Both men and women are equally affected, especially those who are unemployed, involved in human trafficking and forced labour," he said.

The level of anxiety was much higher among those who were yet to be granted refugee status, according to the study of 1074 asylum seekers and refugees, aged between 18 to 70 years.

Rafique has been ripped off by agents that have promised to help with resettlement in another country, and he admits to having paid a people smuggler in a failed attempt to make it to Australia on a boat.

He cannot return to Burma, according to Amnesty International, because as he is from the Rohingya minority, the Burmese authorities would refuse to grant him citizenship, rendering him stateless.

In Burma, he would suffer from systematic persecution, including forced labour, forced eviction, land confiscation, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement.

He says he will now do the right thing and wait, and hope for a chance of resettlement in Australia.

But he says others will still pay people smugglers and get on the boats in a perilous crossing to Australia, despite the deal with Malaysia meaning that within 72 hours, they will be sent back.

"They will still go, whatever chance they have, they must try to go, even if it means they go to the back of the queue," Rafique said.

Karlis Salna, AAP South-East Asia Correspondent

Bangladesh: Myanmar refugees weave together self-reliance and hope

FARUK PARA, Bangladesh, (UNHCR) Kil Cer, a shy, petite 34-year Chin refugee from Myanmar, can be found every morning weaving blankets along with five other women in the village community centre in this remote lush green village in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

But they're not just turning out the colourful traditional blankets their mothers and grandmothers have always made. In their own quiet way they've woven together a small-scale economic revolution in the settlement of 700, liberating their families from debt and dependence on handouts.

"I am happy now," says Kil Cer. "Before, it was a difficult struggle." Largely because of Kil Cer's weaving skills, her community has paid back all their debts. They are able to take care of their families without UNHCR's support and have invested money in other businesses, such as banana plantations, that also employ the local Bangladeshi host community, known as the Bawm.

"We speak almost the same language as they do and they have been very good to us," Kil Cer, a mother of two, says about her hosts.

Behind the success is a new UNHCR approach to developing self-reliance as part of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres's focus on refugees living outside camps. Learning from earlier projects that gave grants to refugees who did not have the proper skills or business education to use the money properly, UNHCR began relying on the expertise of local businesses to develop the skills of refugees in Bangladesh living outside camps.

Eight months ago, Kil Cer and other refugees in the village were heavily in debt after many of their projects small rice mills, grocery shops and farming failed. For many years, they had relied on UNHCR to pay their rent and give them money for basic commodities. Even when Kil Cer tried to support herself with weaving, she was only able to earn US$2 per blanket hardly enough to cover her expenses.

"Like many girls in Myanmar, I was taught to weave by my mother in Myanmar when I was 15 years old," she says. In Bangladesh, she began weaving blankets and passed on the skill to a few other young women, both refugees and Bangladeshis.

The turning point came when UNHCR introduced her to Samantha Morshed, chief executive officer of Hathay Bunano, a company that was already employing rural Bangladeshi women and other disadvantaged people to make soft toys for the international market under fair trade rules. She provided free professional advice to Kil Cer and her team on improving their products and marketing them, to make best use of a UNHCR start-up loan of US$250.

Today their offerings include shawls, scarves, ponchos, baby blankets, picnic blankets, bedspreads and bags marketed under Expression in Exile, a brand that is becoming popular with the urban elite in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Within a month, they made a profit of US$800, a substantial amount for the residents of Farak Pura, and today demand is outstripping supply.

"I was excited when I first saw the blankets from Expression in Exile and am happy to give the group a little direction in terms of colours, sizes, pricing and raw materials," says Morshed. "I see no reason why these blankets cannot achieve mainstream export sales in the near future."

Now that her daily needs are taken care of, Kil Cer is already looking to a future she could scarcely have dreamed of a year ago. "I want to invest the money in my children's education," she says. Her 19-year-old colleague, Siang Khin Par, has similar high hopes: "I do this because I would like to be self-reliant. I would like to learn computing and English."

UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Saber Azam says the programme is paying benefits not only for the refugees but for Bangladesh as well.

"Ensuring that refugees are able to take care of themselves and their communities is often a more humanitarian activity than giving them free hand-outs for years," he says. "Kil Cer has also demonstrated how refugees can help their Bangladeshi hosts rather than being a burden on them."

By Jelvas Musau in Faruk Para and Arjun Jain in Dhaka, Bangladesh

RSM Malaysia History For Rohingya Live... Under the tormenting sun in Teknaf, on the southeastern tip of Bangladesh, Ahmed puts us straight: it is really all about love. His wife stands next to him in his tarpaulined shop in the unofficial Kutupalong refugee camp in southern Bangladesh. He came here, Ahmed says, to marry his childhood sweetheart, fleeing what Physicians for Human Rights, a watchdog group, describes as ‘flagrant and widespread human rights abuses’ that condemned Ahmed to having to pay an exorbitant bribe just to marry. Today, his 18-month-old baby crawls over small packets of paan and snacks on sale, mimicking his father’s voice unknowingly, describing the indescribable – how Rohingya women were told by the Burmese military that, in order to marry, they would have to have an implant rendering them infertile.

The Dhaka government has long been aware of the ethnic tensions in the Rohingya’s native Arakan state on western Burma. Indeed, by all accounts, the junta has actively fostered this situation over the years; for decades, the Rohingya community – Muslims in a Buddhist-dominated country – has been denied even the most basic of citizenship rights. But in the run-up to Burma’s national elections last November, evidently in the hopes of garnering votes, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) promised the Rohingya the citizenship rights
they crave.

Today, Salim Ullah of the exile-based Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) describes these as ‘lots of sweet promises’. He notes that in Maung Daw, the regional centre from where the Rohingya hail, the central mosque is still un-repaired, a symbol of the community’s difference from the majority Buddhists. While the mosque had long ago fallen into disrepair, fixing it had reportedly been forbidden by the government. Prior to the election, however, the USDP had promised the community that the mosque would be fixed, in an attempt to combat the local (allegedly anti-Rohingya) party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.

Instead, the military is today busily constructing a 300 km fence between Bangladesh and Burma. Like Israel’s wall bordering the West Bank, this will be a monument to divided peoples – an electrified fence carrying current between two territories where very few houses can boast of electric lights. For the most part, Bangladeshis seem somewhat bemused by what is taking place across the border. From the Bangladeshi side, Burma seems a dark and confusing place; but the Burmese border force, known as Nasaka, is viewed with trepidation, its fence and security posts ominously overlooking the sleepy Bangladeshi villages.

Ethnic cauldron
Recently, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been making attempts at building relations with her Burmese counterparts, new and old. This has prompted an attempt – particularly being pushed by the Bangladeshi side – at a rail link between the countries and onward, from Chittagong to Kunming, in China. For this, Prime Minister Hasina laid a foundation stone at the beginning of April near Cox’s Bazar near Chittagong – though this is a dream that many believe is not shared by the hermetic Burmese rulers next door. This has been the case with Bangladeshi pleas for natural gas from their well-endowed neighbour, a saga that has seen the Burmese stringing both India and Bangladesh along as both Dhaka and New Delhi in recent years have tried to endear themselves to the generals in Naypyidaw.

In mid-April, the new Burmese ambassador to Bangladesh, U Min Lwin, made oblique reference to the Rohingya, suggesting publicly that the two countries would need to solve the issues with ‘discussion’. The ambassador made the statement on presenting his credentials to President M Zillur Rahman. Since then, Dhaka officials have gone about ‘solving’ the problem by blocking a joint UN initiative to provide humanitarian assistance worth some USD 33 million to locals and Rohingya refugees. Purportedly, the reason for this decision is due to anxieties in Dhaka that the project would inflame ethnic tensions within Bangladesh.

The project would have seen collaboration between four UN agencies, including the High Commissioner for Refugees. In Bangladesh, some 28,000 Rohingya have been recognised as refugees, but thousands more continue to flood over the border; more than 6000 are said to have come since last fall. The state of the Rohingya in Bangladesh is not only a situation of political trauma; rather, as Physicians for Human Rights noted in a recent report, acute hunger levels in Kutupalong are around 18 percent, despite the situation being considered an ‘emergency’ for the past two decades. The report found that as upwards of 55 percent of children in Kutupalong suffer from severe diarrhoea, a life-threatening condition in such impoverished circumstances.

The new international project, then, could have played a significant role. Currently, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the French medical group, provides a single clinic, near Khutapalong, which is mandated to treat a local Bangladeshi for every refugee. This facility is strictly out of bounds for journalists, who are referred instead to an office in Amsterdam where a spokesperson declares the situation to be ‘very delicate’. A teacher (and refugee) at the camp, Rakib, is more candid, complaining that the clinic has a habit of prescribing a single paracetamol tablet for most complaints. Nonetheless, MSF officials do corroborate that those Rohingya who have yet to be officially recognised as refugees are ‘most vulnerable’ and ‘live under terrible conditions’ with ‘acute healthcare needs.’

A Finance Ministry official in Dhaka, commenting on the blocking of the UN project while not wanting to be named, noted recently in the local press, ‘Instead of helping to cut poverty in the region, the UN project would only increase tension between the Rohingyas and the locals. No doubt, it would infuriate the local people.’ Therefore, to avoid any resentment of refugees being overly-coddled an impasse has been reached, and nothing will happen beyond, perhaps, the construction of the new fences or Dhaka’s railway dream.

Ethnic rivalry and nationalistic resentment became a political issue in early June, when Foreign Minister Dipu Moni accused the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of giving certain members of the Rohingya community Bangladeshi passports. Indeed, one commentator accused the BNP of giving out as many as 40,000 such papers, allegedly in exchange for votes – mirroring the USDP’s use of the Rohingya in Burma. Interestingly, there is a flip side to this ethnic rivalry: some are now forecasting that Bangladeshis in countries such as Saudi Arabia will claim to be Rohingya in order to receive asylum.

Enmity already lies just beneath the surface of even those with the privilege of education in Bangladesh. Professor Mushtiaq Ahmed, based in Cox’s Bazar, is indignant at the suggestion that the Rohingya are persecuted by locals. ‘This is a downright falsehood,’ he said. ‘Rather, the Rohingya people have been creating problems in [Bangladesh’s] law-and-order situation – most of them are thieves, dacoits, killers. You can hire a Rohingya man to kill a man here!’

Such tensions surfaced publicly when a high-ranking US official, Eric P Schwartz, visited Dhaka in mid-June. Responding to Schwartz’s request for Dhaka to register to the Rohingya as refugees, Minister for Food Abdur Razzaque asked, ‘If they are registered, what will happen to those who will infiltrate later?’ Razzaque added, ‘It is not possible for a poor country like Bangladesh to take care of many Rohingya refugees for a long time … [Western countries] are asking Bangladesh to increase support to the Rohingyas, keeping the problem alive.’

Open-air prisons
Even as acute hunger stalks the Rohingya in Bangladesh, Refugees International claims that a climate of ‘impunity’ pervades the area around the camps. Women and girls are said to be victims of regular sexual harassment from Bangladeshis when they leave what Physicians for Human Rights describe as ‘open-air prisons’. This assessment is corroborated by Tin Soe, the editor of Kaladan Press, an online Rohingya news network. He claims that women and girls are harassed or raped regularly when they leave the camps to collect firewood in the nearby forests.

Still, one refugee, Fatima, who came from Maungdaw in the early 1990s, says that she is at peace. Although her mournful, distant look bellies some of her words, she says she does not want to take to the seas, as many Rohingya before have done, attempting to float to Thailand or even Australia. The beatings and harassment that her fellow residents receive for trying to leave the camp for work is insignificant compared to what she says she experienced earlier. In 1992, Fatima fled Burma after what Refugees International describes as a racial purge by the military. She claims that one morning the Nasaka border troops came to her home, where she lived with her eight-month-old son. The soldiers asked for the toddler’s identification and, because she lacked paperwork for her son or citizenship papers for herself, Fatima says the troops burned her son to death and torched her property.

In such a context, despite the difficulties faced by her community on a daily basis, Fatima sees the Bangladeshis as her saviours, and expresses her immense gratitude. Horror stories are everywhere in Khutapalong; but among the improvised huts and hungry children, Fatima has found some peace, while Ahmed’s content child is a monument to his love.

~ Joseph Allchin is a journalist working out of Southeast Asia, covering Burma and the region.

KUALA LUMPUR, (RSM).Malaysia — Malaysia and Australia sealed a pact Monday, July 25, to swap refugees in a contentious new strategy aimed at deterring asylum seekers from undertaking perilous boat journeys to Australia.

The deal will see Australia send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia over the next four years in exchange for Australia resettling 4,000 registered refugees currently languishing in this Southeast Asian nation.
Both governments announced the deal in May but were forced to fine-tune it amid objections by opposition politicians in their countries and human rights groups that criticize the treatment of about 93,000 refugees now living in Malaysia, which has not signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen signed the agreement at a Kuala Lumpur hotel, where about 15 opposition-backed activists gathered to protest the plan.

Hishammuddin pledged that asylum seekers sent to Malaysia would be treated according to the U.N. refugee agency’s international standards. They will be placed at a processing center for six weeks before being allowed to live in public.

“The allegation that Malaysia is not fair toward refugees in this country is completely untrue,” Hishammuddin said.

Most of the refugees now in Malaysia are Myanmarese people who fled persecution in their country.

They are not officially allowed to work or go to school, but most do so illegally, risking detention and whippings with a rattan cane if they are caught.

Australia has long drawn people from poor, often war-ravaged places hoping to start a new life, with more than 6,200 asylum seekers arriving by boat last year. Most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq, and they use Malaysia or Indonesia as a transit point for traveling to Australia.

Australian authorities say the deal with Malaysia is meant to send a message to potential asylum seekers that it will not accept any more of them.

15.001 Rohingya community in Malaysia

Posted by MRS Wednesday, June 30 0 comments

KUALA LUMPUR, 8 April (Bernama) - A total of 15.001 people Rohingya community is now in the country, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

He said the Rohingya refugees are now getting help from local community resources and the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) and some third countries such as Australia and Canada.

However, Rais said, efforts are underway to address dumping of Rohingya refugees in the country by negotiating through the ASEAN Secretariat.

"Efforts are also being implemented through the ASEAN to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to review specific to the community on whether to return to their home country or encouraging third countries to receive them," he said when answering a question Senator Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar at the Dewan Negara here Wednesday.

Senator Datuk Wira answer questions Syed Ali Alhabshee of diplomatic efforts or negotiations do ministry that Malaysia can overcome the problem, Rais said the Foreign Ministry has officially presented to the Myanmar government on the problem and the country has a number of commitments by ASEAN.

"However, before the positive steps taken, Sekreteriat Asean should collect all relevant data Rohingya before action can be taken," he said.

More than 50 Arakanese held a protest outside the UN refugee organisation's office in the Malaysian capital on Monday, alleging its discrimination against the Burmese ethnic group.

The demonstrators at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kuala Lumpur called for the office to recognise the more than 10,000 Arakanese in Malaysia as legitimate refugees and supply aid to those in immigration detention camps. They also sought an Arakanese translator at the office.

A day after the protest, the UNHCR reported on its website's news section that it had recently flown 38 ethnic Kachin Burmese refugees from Malaysia to Romania.

Meanwhile, the New Straits Times reported on Monday that Saturday night's three-hour riot at an immigration detention camp in Ajil, in the eastern peninsula state of Terengganu was sparked by a fight between two groups of Vietnamese and Burmese detainees, immigration officials told the newspaper on Sunday.

But state police chief Shukri Dahlan reportedly said that almost 200 men from Vietnam and Burma "turned aggressive after what they claimed was mistreatment at the camp", the paper reported, without details of the abuses.

The 1951 Refugee Convention is "the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states", according to the UN.

Article 1 of the convention says a refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…"

Min Min Htun, one of the leaders of the protest outside the UNHCR offices, told cripdo : "The UNHCR office in Malaysia has recognised other ethnic people from Burma as refugees but the Arakanese people are being discriminated against … that's why we are … [here today].

"Moreover, the Arakanese people who have been in detention camps have been ignored by the UNHCR," he said. "And no Arakanese translator was appointed in the UNHCR office, so we [also] have language barriers to deal with."

The protesters submitted a letter to the office and UN staff promised to consider their demands "as soon as possible".

Between 2004 and 2008, Arakanese people had been recognised as refugees but since that period their right to apply for refugee status had been denied, according to the demonstrators.

Just 1,700 of the 15,000 Arakanese in Malaysia have been registered as asylum-seekers (UN definition: a person who has left their country of origin, has applied for recognition as a refugee in another country, and is awaiting a decision on their application) by the UNHCR Malaysia office, and 250 have been resettled in safe third countries, the Arakan Refugee Relief Committee, based in Kuala Lumpur, said. Around 300 Arakanese are in detention camps around Malaysia.

Tun Win Nyunt, a Burmese human rights activist in Malaysia, also accused the UN of bias in dealing with the ethnic group.

"We don't have even the right to apply for refugee status, so we asked the office [why]," he said. "Their answer is … because we have Burmese passports and we can go back to Burma … Their answer is very general [vague]."

A Chin Refugee Committee (Malaysia) spokesman said: "We [too] have noticed that Burmese and Arakanese people are not being recognised as refugees, but I don't know the reason."

CRIPDO phoned UNHCR Malaysia but its spokeswoman Yante Ismail was unable to provide answers, citing a lack of detailed knowledge of the situation.

However, the UNHCR yesterday reported in its website's news section that on May 31 and June 1 a group of 38 Burmese refugees, all ethnic Kachin, had been flown to Bucharest, Romania from Malaysia in a resettlement organised with the Romanian immigration department and Red Cross.

Romania had become one of the few countries in the world to accept refugees for resettlement, it said.

"The refugees, including eight children, flew to Bucharest from Malaysia on May 31 and June 1 under legislation adopted by Romania in December 2008," the report said. "This provides for Romania to accept up to 40 refugees for resettlement each year."

In the report, UNHCR officer in Romania Machiel Salomons said it had been forced to enhance its resettlement efforts, adding that "Romania's contribution in this regard is both timely and very much appreciated."

The Kachin group were staying at the Regional Centre for Accommodation and Asylum Procedures in Galati, a city in eastern Romania, run by the Romanian Immigration Office, the UN said.

"Romania also hosts a landmark Emergency Transit Centre, which was opened in the city of Timisoara in late 2008 to provide a temporary haven for refugees in urgent need of evacuation from their first asylum countries due to life-threatening conditions," the report said. "More than 600 refugees have transited the centre."

Of the 87,700 refugees or asylum-seekers registered with the UN in Malaysia, 81,200 are from Burma, comprising some 39,100 Chins, 18,800 Rohingya, 5,900 Burmese Muslims, 3,800 Mon, 3,600 Kachin, and the remaining are other ethnic minorities from Burma, according to the website of the UNHCR Malaysia.

Other refugees were from Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 70 per cent of refugees or asylum-seekers were men, while 30 per cent were women, the website said. There were some 19,000 children aged less than 18.

Malaysia refused to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention. That refusal and the lack of legislation ratifying the convention of the kind adopted by Romania in 2008 means that the country arrests and jails refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people. Illegal migrant workers have also been detained.

The junta's confiscation of lands, recruitment of child soldiers, rape carried out by its army, forced labour, forced relocation, brutal repression of dissent and ethnic minority rights, unjust laws, inadequate infrastructure and abysmal health care are just some of the many reasons that thousands of Burmese people have fled to neighbouring or regional countries for asylum or just a livelihood.

by Anuar tahir : News Web Opertor

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police say nearly 200 illegal immigrants from Vietnam and Myanmar have staged a riot in a botched attempt to break out of a detention centre while awaiting deportation.

Breach of TrustShukri Dahlan, the police chief of northern Terengganu state, told Malaysia's national news agency Bernama that eight Vietnamese detainees were injured in the incident late Saturday.

Another state police official says the detainees tried to break through the centre's entrance and threatened to set the facility on fire, but riot police forced them back inside. He did not have other details and spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because he was not authorized to make public statements.

BERAT mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul. Begitulah nasib malang yang menimpa pelarian Rohingya di Malaysia, hak mereka ditindas dan dicabul pihak junta Myanmar.

Mereka lahir sebagai warga Myanmar, tetapi dinafikan hak untuk memiliki kad pengenalan, malah hak asasi kemanusiaan untuk hidup di bumi sendiri dicabuli dengan rakus. Wanita Rohingya dirogol dan dicabul tentera Myanmar setiap waktu. Etnik ini rata-rata menganut agama Islam, namun mereka dihalang untuk bergerak bebas walaupun untuk ke masjid menunaikan ibadat. Malangnya ramai masyarakat Malaysia terutama kaum Melayu yang mempunyai stigma negatif terhadap pelarian etnik Rohingya yang dianggap seperti pendatang di bumi Malaysia, walhal mereka mendapat pengiktirafan daripada Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB) untuk menetap di sini. Kecetekan sumber maklumat yang betul serta ketidakpekaan terhadap nasib yang menimpa etnik Rohingya ini menyebabkan etnik ini disisih masyarakat Malaysia. Walaupun sebilangan besar antara mereka sudah tinggal hampir 45 tahun di Malaysia, mereka masih belum dapat menikmati kehidupan seperti manusia biasa. Mereka tidak berpeluang mendapat pendidikan, pekerjaan, kesihatan dan jaminan keselamatan serta undang-undang. Untuk menampung keperluan hidup di sini, mereka hanya mampu meminta sedekah daripada orang ramai. Walaupun kebanyakan mereka mempunyai kad UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), namun kad itu tidak banyak membantu, sekadar untuk membenarkan mereka menetap di negara Malaysia. Hal ini turut diakui UNHCR sendiri.

Bagi membantu kanak-kanak serta remaja Rohingya ini mendapat pendidikan asas, seramai lapan penuntut daripada Institut Perguruan Persekutuan, Pulau Pinang mewakili Yayasan Kemanusiaan Muslim Aid Malaysia dengan sukarela melaksanakan satu program membaca dan menulis (2M) bagi membela nasib anak-anak Rohingya ini. Program bertempat di Bagan Dalam, Pulau Pinang dilaksanakan tiga bulan bermula Februari sehingga Mei 2010 dengan bantuan dana UNHCR. Menurut penyelaras program, Wardah Abdul Rahman, 25, program ini dijalankan pada setiap Ahad bermula jam 9 pagi sehingga 1 tengah hari.

Seramai 31 anak-anak Rohingya berusia empat sehingga 17 tahun dikumpulkan untuk mengikuti program ini. "Program ini dilaksanakan kepada anak-anak Rohingya kerana mereka tidak mempunyai keistimewaan untuk menimba ilmu seperti kanak-kanak lain yang mampu ke sekolah. Program ini bertujuan membantu mereka menguasai kemahiran membaca dan menulis supaya mereka tidak lagi tertindas di bumi sendiri," katanya. Menurut Wardah, bagi melancarkan proses pengajaran dan pembelajaran, semua sukarelawan merangka sukatan pelajaran dengan membahagikan mereka kepada empat kumpulan mengikut penguasaan kemahiran 2M ini. Ujian pencapaian akan diadakan pada penghujung bulan untuk menilai prestasi pelajar ini. Mereka turut disediakan kelengkapan pembelajaran dan makanan yang disediakan pihak sukarelawan. Dalam tempoh ini, setiap minggu anak-anak Rohingya ini diajar menguasai bahasa Melayu mengikut peringkat umur mereka. Modul pengajaran disediakan sepenuhnya sukarelawan Muslim Aid merangkap fasilitator iaitu guru pelatih. "Walaupun sukarelawan menghadapi kesukaran berinteraksi dengan kanak-kanak ini kerana mereka menggunakan bahasa Myanmar, kesungguhan dan keikhlasan mereka harus dipuji kerana sanggup mengajar asas bahasa Melayu," jelasnya. Namun, sesuatu yang berada di luar pengetahuan adalah kesungguhan anak-anak Rohingya ini menerima ilmu. Bahkan ibu bapa mereka sendiri turut mempunyai kesedaran yang tinggi bahawa pendidikan mampu merubah nasib mereka. Kehidupan sukar menyebabkan ada yang terpaksa mengabaikan aspek pendidikan anak-anak. Mereka tidak mampu menghantar anak-anak belajar ke sekolah swasta ataupun menghadiri kelas tambahan yang memerlukan perbelanjaan besar. Jadi, kelas percuma dengan khidmat sukarelawan seperti ini amat diharapkan. "Sukarelawan diberi lampu 'hijau' untuk mendidik dan mengajar anak mereka dengan cara kami sendiri biarpun penuh ketegasan agar anak-anak mereka benar-benar terdidik dan menjadi insan berguna," katanya.

Tambah Wardah, tempoh masa yang singkat selama tiga bulan sebenarnya tidak cukup bagi pembelajaran mereka. Namun, sekiranya selepas ini mendapat dana daripada UNHCR program sebegini akan disambung semula. Bagi kanak-kanak yang sudah mahir menulis, membaca dan bertutur dalam bahasa Melayu, mereka akan menjadi tenaga pengajar untuk generasi seterusnya. Dengan cara ini pendidikan akan sentiasa berkembang dari satu generasi ke generasi lain. Wardah berharap agar usaha murni mampu memberi kesedaran kepada rakyat Malaysia mengenai permasalahan yang menimpa saudara seislam di sini.

While incidents of refugee trafficking in Malaysia have diminished since the U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on Human Trafficking called attention to the country’s ranking among the world’s worst offenders, there has been no sign of a decrease in arrests of refugees in Malaysia.

Malaysian detention camps are severely overcrowded as a result, and conditions are reportedly wretched, with limited or no access to clean water, medical treatment and food.

Karen Zusman, an independent journalist, recently returned from Malaysia, where she reported on the plight of Burmese refugees. In a previous blog, she wrote about "Jack" a young Burmese man who had fled to Malaysia.

Jack’s brother, “David,” had been arrested in Malaysia. At the time, 32-year-old David had been in a Malaysian detention camp for four months. But just recently, Zusman received a jubilant phone call in the middle of the night from the brothers — David had just been released from detention.

David joined Karen Zusman and Worldfocus to discuss his life and experience in the camps.
Karen Zusman: I know the camps have become overcrowded because the Malaysian government has come under scrutiny from the U.S. about trafficking refugees. So the deportations have stopped, but the arrests have not stopped.

David: Yes, that is exactly how it is. So the camps are way too crowded. They just pack us in there, they don't care. To them we are illegal. Like criminals. They don't care why we are here. So they put us in here like as if we are dogs.

Karen Zusman: The government has now allowed journalists to visit the camps. We have heard that some camps are getting better. Is this true?

David: I want to tell you, with all due respect, it is not like anything good at all these camps. It is like, truly, it is like hell. And they treat us like animals.
Karen Zusman: What are your days like in the camps?

David: We wake up every morning at 6:30 a.m. They give us some tea that is very weak, and a few biscuits. We can see on the package the biscuits are expired — they should not be eaten. As soon as we have our tea, we must rush to find a place in the shade to sit down. There are 700 people in this camp. It is only supposed to have half that many. So there is not many places to sit down if you don't want to be in the sun all day. The sun is very hot here. About 33 or 35 degrees Celsius [roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit]. So we all want the shade, but it is so crowded — it is very difficult even to find a place to sit down out of the sun.

Brothers David, Jack and friend John spend their time playing cards in their room. They are afraid to go outside for fear of arrest.

Karen Zusman: And the other meals?

David: We get rice to eat for lunch, but very small amounts, and often it is moldy and not fully cooked. It is very bad. Maybe five days a week it is like this. And sometimes they give it to us right on the dirt, on the ground.

Karen Zusman: What about the hygiene in the camps, and sanitation?

David: The toilets are a big problem. There is no door and only four toilets for 700 people! If you are lucky, you can do your toilet needs in the middle of the night when people are asleep. The toilets are so terrible because nobody cleans them. You can imagine, 700 people using these four toilets! Oh, it is terrible.

Sometimes the only place to sit in the shade is near the toilets. The smell can make you sick. But still, it is better than being in the sun all day, because some days we don't have any water.

Karen Zusman: What about bathing?

David: There is one tank of water. This is disgusting. No faucet. We have to dip into this water. 700 people. Can you imagine how dirty and oily this water gets from everyone using it to clean? And there is sometimes no water for the toilet, so, I mean, people are getting very dirty. I think you get the idea. And skin diseases. There are many skin diseases happening because the conditions are so bad. So these people with the diseases are also dipping their bodies into the water tank. Oh, it is so bad. So we are all catching everything from each other.

Karen Zusman: And what about if a detainee gets sick — is there any medical treatment available?

David: This is also really bad. You can be sick but they are not going to let you see the doctor. It can be really bad. One night a girl was crying a lot. Then we heard a lot of girls screaming for help. For a couple of hours they were shouting like this. But the detention people wouldn't get the first girl see the doctor or take her to the hospital. She died that night, because her appendix burst open. I was also sick. I have a heart tension problem. But they do not want to give you any medical [treatment], so you just have to suffer there.

Karen Zusman: Is there any kind of discipline or punishment?

AUDIO: “David” discusses being beaten by the RELA, the People's Volunteer Corps that monitors illegal immigration in Malaysia.

David: Yes, yes. That is what I wanted to talk you about. Another problem is that we get punished a lot. There are three main types of punishment:

1. The first one is the helicopter. This one we have to make a noise with our mouth like a helicopter. Then we are forced to take our shirt off and swing it around with one arm like a propeller. That is why they call it the helicopter. Maybe we have to do this for one hour. Your arm and your throat are in so much pain, but you have to keep going. They say, “Do the helicopter!” Or you will be beaten. It is really a humiliation, that one — doing the helicopter in front of all these people.

2. Sometimes they just beat you for punishment. They don't even ask you to do the helicopter.

3. Press-ups, maybe 50 or 100 press-ups, I mean push-ups, in the sun.

Karen Zusman: What are the reasons for these punishments?

David: The main reason is talking during prayer time. The Muslims in the camp need to pray five times a day. Most of the refugees are not Muslims. So it is very hard for almost 700 people to keep quiet while only about 30 people are praying. But it doesn't matter. If anyone talks at this time when someone is praying, they will be beaten or punished in another way that I have mentioned. Sometime we get beaten for asking for medical [attention]. That happened to me when I asked for medicine.

Karen Zusman: How did you get out of the camp?

AUDIO: David’s brother, “Jack,” discusses how the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) helped secure his brother’s release, and the difficulties experienced by detainees without UNHCR refugee cards.

David: The United Nations came. My brother got them to register me in the camp. And then they come every so often and get some of us released, if we are refugees that have been registered. If you are not registered by the U.N., then this is a big problem. That is why so many people want to be registered.

I have heard from other refugees that there are many people in the camps that were registered and arrested anyway, even though they showed the police their U.N. refugee card at the time of arrest — do you know anything about this?

Yes, this is also true. I don't understand why they do that. The RELA, the immigration police, they really don't seem to care about this card, if you have it or you don't. Sometimes they might rip it up and laugh at you, or throw it on the floor or put it in their pocket. It only helps after you have been in the camps a long time and experiencing this kind of hell for a while. Then the U.N. can take you out. But not before.

Karen Zusman: How do you feel now that you have left?

David: I am so happy to be here back with my brother. But still, I — we — we are not free people in Malaysia. We are like animals, still, with no basic freedoms or rights. We really want to leave this place. We Burmese people are not safe in Malaysia. Even if we do nothing wrong and work very hard, any day can be a day we go to jail.

AUDIO: David’s friend “John,” who was also recently released from the Malaysian detention camp, talks about his hopes for resettlement in the U.S. David’s brother, “Jack,” translates.

Karen Zusman: What is your dream for the future, if you can have a dream?

David: I don't know if it is a dream. It is very simple, really. I want to have a family. And I want to see my mother and father in Burma, my parents. Let me tell you, this is a serious thing. A most important thing. For me first I need to see my parents. Then I want to get married and have my own family. As a free man. It can be in any country. Just not in Asia anymore please. I have been in Thailand, too, and it is also bad. We are from Burma. We want to go home to our families only in Burma. But we cannot. So then our next dream is that we would like to come to a country where we can have a family and feel safe.

– Karen Zusman

For more, listen to the audio documentary Please Don't Say My Name.

Worldfocus speaks with “David,” a Burmese refugee who was recently released from a Malaysian detention camp. The camps are severely overcrowded, and conditions are reportedly wretched, with limited or no access to clean water, medical treatment and food.

Today We are Hav I’ve been following the issue of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar (formerly Burma) since January 2008. If you scroll all the way back through our entire Rohingya Reports category to the beginning you will find this post in which I wrote about how Time magazine and the Hudson Institute both linked Rohingya “refugees” to Islamic radicalism. Now over two years later the drumbeat to resettle the Rohingya is reaching a crescendo. This is how it works, there is a deliberate media campaign that we have chronicled throughout 90 posts on the subject. Now the pressure is really building. Just in the last couple of days I see that is telling its activists to lobby the UN and the Office of Refugee Resettlement to resettle the Rohingya: Demand action from the UNHCR and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement* to prioritize the resettlement of the Rohingya refugees and offer them the protection they deserve. * They should be lobbying the US State Department, but I am sure ORR will be happy to forward their demands to the federal department that makes the decisions on who gets into the US (with direction from the UN of course!). I have just learned that American Muslim activist groups are pushing Rohingya resettlement too. Here we have a report in which, surprise-surprise, they are also criticizing Muslim Bangladesh about its treatment of the Rohingya flowing into that country. But, of course reading down the article the idea of resettling Rohingya to the wide open spaces of North America is presented. Last week, the American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), an umbrella organization that includes the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), amongst other Muslim organizations in the USA, hosted a press conference in the National Press Club, Washington D.C. to discuss human rights abuses in Bangladesh. In his inaugural statement, Mr. Wright Mahdi Bray of the AMT brought up the squalid living conditions of the Rohingya refugees inside Bangladesh. In the last few years we have raised the Rohingya issue a few times with Bangladesh government, but have failed to improve the deplorable condition. [.....] Should the refugees choose to leave Bangladesh for a third country the government should not hinder that process either. It must also make all diplomatic efforts to find shelters for these stranded refugees in sparsely populated and prosperous countries of Europe and North America, and the Gulf states. This is the second time in recent weeks I have seen this reference to “sparsely populated” North America. I wonder if ever has any conflicts between its environmental activists who want to preserve American vistas and open space (not to mention, wanting clean air and water) and the activists pushing for higher populations through immigration. I hate to break it to you, but you can’t have both especially with such high birth rates among Muslim immigrants. Also, I’ve told you several times recently about how Rohingya refugees who have gone to Saudi Arabia have been imprisoned there, well this article from the Asian Tribune tells us more of the details of how that happened. So much for Muslim charity! To round out the troika this morning. I see that Christiane Amanpour has posted a CNN report entitled, “The forgotten people: Rohingya refugees.” I didn’t watch it, but I’m sure its the same old drumbeat. We are already resettling Rohingya Quietly and with no fanfare the US State Department has already begun resettling Rohingya Muslims to your cities, so has Canada and many European countries including the UK and Ireland. Tensions between Burmese Karen Christians, another persecuted minority from Burma, and the Muslim Burmese Rohingya continue to mount in resettlment cities although this goes unreported by the mainstream media that is still stuck in the American melting pot myth. If I lived in a resettlement city, especially one with a large Burmese population, I would be asking the resettlement agencies if more Rohingya are on the way. Those agencies have a tendency to gloss over concerns and play up the Burmese Christian refugee angle.

15.001 Rohingya community in Malaysia

Posted by MRS Friday, April 2 0 comments

KUALA LUMPUR, 8 April (Bernama) - A total of 15.001 people Rohingya community is now in the country, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

He said the Rohingya refugees are now getting help from local community resources and the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) and some third countries such as Australia and Canada.

However, Rais said, efforts are underway to address dumping of Rohingya refugees in the country by negotiating through the ASEAN Secretariat.

"Efforts are also being implemented through the ASEAN to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to review specific to the community on whether to return to their home country or encouraging third countries to receive them," he said when answering a question Senator Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar at the Dewan Negara here Wednesday.

Senator Datuk Wira answer questions Syed Ali Alhabshee of diplomatic efforts or negotiations do ministry that Malaysia can overcome the problem, Rais said the Foreign Ministry has officially presented to the Myanmar government on the problem and the country has a number of commitments by ASEAN.

"However, before the positive steps taken, Sekreteriat Asean should collect all relevant data Rohingya before action can be taken," he said.

SERIOUS eyes, shoulder carry more weight. That's bad luck that befell the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, they are oppressed and violated the rights of the Myanmar junta.

They were born as citizens of Myanmar, but was denied the right to have identity cards, and even basic human rights to live in their own land with a savagely violated. Rohingya women raped and violated every time the Myanmar military. Ethnic average follow Islam, but they are restricted to move freely even to the mosque to perform prayer. Unfortunately, many Malaysians especially the Malays who have a negative stigma against ethnic Rohingya refugees are treated like immigrants in the land of Malaysia, although they have endorsements from the United Nations (UN) to stay here. Kecetekan source of accurate information and ketidakpekaan the fate of ethnic Rohingya ethnic omitted resulted in Malaysian society. Although a large number of them have lived almost 45 years in Malaysia, they are unable to enjoy life like a normal human being. They are deprived of education, employment, health and safety and the law. To meet the needs of living here, they can only ask for alms from the public. Although most of them have a card UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), but the card is not much help, just to let them live in the nation. This is also acknowledged UNHCR itself.

To help children and young Rohingya is a basic education, a total of eight students from the Institute of Teachers, representing Penang Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation Muslim Aid voluntarily implement a program to read and write (2M) to defend the fate of these Rohingya children. Program held in Bagan Dalam, Pulau Pinang implemented three months from February to May 2010 with the assistance of UNHCR funds. According to program coordinator, Wardah Abdul Rahman, 25, the program is run on every Sunday starting at 9 am to 1 pm.

A total of 31 Rohingya children aged four to 17 years gathered to participate in this program. "The program is implemented to the Rohingya children because they do not have the privilege to gain knowledge as other children who are able to go to school. The program aims to help them master reading and writing skills so that they are no longer oppressed of the earth itself," he said. According to Wardah, to facilitate the teaching and learning process, all volunteers developing curriculum by dividing them into four groups according to the proficiency of these 2M. Achievement tests will be held at the end of the month to evaluate the performance of these students. They also provided teaching equipment and food provided the volunteers. During this period, every week of Rohingya children are taught to dominate the Malay language as they age. The course modules are fully prepared volunteers Muslim Aid also the facilitator of student teachers. "Although volunteers have difficulty interacting with children as they use the language of Myanmar, the seriousness and sincerity should be praised because they are willing to teach the basic Malay language," he said. However, something that is outside the knowledge of the seriousness of this Rohingya children receive knowledge. Even their own parents also have a greater awareness that education could change their fate. Difficult life had resulted in some neglected aspects of children's education. They can not afford to send children to private schools or study to attend extra classes that require large expenditures. So, the class for free as a volunteer service is very reliable. "Volunteers are given the 'green' to educate and teach our children their own way even when the full rigor for their children educated and actually become useful," he said.

Add Wardah, a short period of time for three months really is not enough for their learning. However, if after it received funding from the UNHCR will resume this program. For children who have advanced writing, reading and speaking in Malay, they will become trainers for the next generation. In this way education will continue to expand from one generation to another generation. Wardah hope that efforts could bring awareness to Malaysians about the problems that befell his seislam here.

Malaysia detains 93 Rohingya boat people who have been at sea for 30 days
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities have picked up 93 Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar who said they spent 30 days at sea in a crowded wooden boat, an official said Friday.

The Rohingya men, an ethnic group not recognized by Myanmar's military regime, had apparently been chased out of Thai waters before they were detained Wednesday off Malaysia's northern resort island of Langkawi, said Zainuddin Mohamad Suki, an officer with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

The Thais denied they chased the boat away.

A fishing boat had earlier reported to the agency that the men were asking for food and water from passing vessels after their open boat experienced engine failure, he said.

Initial investigations showed they had been at sea for 30 days after fleeing their homeland, he said.

"Some of the men said they were chased out of Thai waters earlier before they made their way to Langkawi. They said they were sailing aimlessly in the hope of finding a country that will accept them," Zainuddin told The Associated Press.

Vimon Kidchob, spokeswoman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, however, said troops gave the men food and water, suggesting the men left Thai waters of their own accord.

"The Rohingyas were not chased out of the Thai waters. Thai troops on the Andaman Coast found a group of non-Thai people in boats, so they gave the people food and water and let them continue their journey," she said.

Thailand has acknowledged in the past towing away boats of Rohingyas, hoping they will land in other countries.

The Muslim Rohingyas number about 800,000 in Myanmar where they are denied full citizenship and face widespread abuses including forced labour, land seizures and rape, rights groups say.

Hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Middle East, and rights groups have expressed concern they will be tortured or killed if forced to return to Myanmar.

Zainuddin said some of the men detained suffered minor injuries and have been given medical treatment.

All 93 have been handed over to the immigration department in northern Kedah state and are likely to be sent to a detention centre, he added.

Kedah immigration officers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Malaysia has the biggest number of Rohingya refugees in the region, more than 14,000, many of whom have stayed for years in the country, working illegally in plantations or factories, officials said.

Myanmar refugee Sui Par, who fled her homeland with her three children in tow, is determined to make a difference in the lives of other women in a similar situation, writes RACHAEL PHILIP

EARNING a living gives you a sense of worth. It keeps you sane, helps pay the bills and feed the children. Myanmar refugee Sui Par knows this only too well.

When her husband died years ago, she became the sole breadwinner, taking care of her family of three children.

To earn an income, she learned to sew from her mother and became a tailor. Then things changed. One day, her eldest daughter was taken away as a forced labourer to build roads in a different township. When the daughter showed up sick one day, Sui Par decided she had to leave her country.

So she fled and arrived in Malaysia. As Malaysia did not recognise refugees, once more she found it tough to provide for her family. She had few skills, so she turned to what she did best — sewing.

“It was the only thing I could do in this country,” says Sui Par, 39, through an interpreter.

Tailoring allowed her to work from home, so she could mind her children as she cut and sewed.

A Myanmar Chin refugee, Sui Par comes from the Thantlang township in the Chin state in west Myanmar - she often gathers with friends at the Alliance Of Chin Refugees on the first floor of a shoplot in a busy part of KL.

There, she learned of Mang Tha (Sweet Dreams), a Chin community project that empowers women by equipping them with practical skills. Petite Sui Par, always with a ready smile, liked the idea and immediately offered herself and her talent.

About 10 women gather in a scruffy-looking room, sitting or standing around three tables. Some are huddled over their knitting, chatting and laughing as they work, while others gather around Sui Par, watching intently as she cuts out a pattern on a dark piece of fabric. They are learning to sew trousers this week.

Besides sewing and knitting, embroidery is one of the courses available through the Mang Tha programme, which started in 2005. Learning a skill allows the women to take home about RM500 a month.

It may not sound like much but it helps with the groceries and, most importantly, the women can take their work home. They come to the centre about once a week for classes, then they work from home the rest of the week. The women can plan a flexible working schedule and keep an eye on their children.

Sui Par smiles as she recalls one woman exclaiming: “What? Pregnant women in Mang Tha can work too?”

Kyu Kyu, 23, a coordinator for Mang Tha and a Chin refugee herself, says: “Ninety per cent of the sales of their work goes back to the women. This year alone, 75 refugee women have received some form of income from Mang Tha.”

Sui Par’s three children are aged 19, 18 and 16 and two are working as sales assistants. Now that they have grown up, Sui Par can make the time to teach sewing at another Chin centre in Selayang.

Mang Tha has 11 sewing machines, mostly donated by supporters and volunteers, and recently qualified for the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees’ small grants programme which gives up to RM10,000.

With the basics taught to them by Sui Par, such as attaching zippers and making button holes, the women are also able to produce scores of other accessories and crafts for Mang Tha. For the year-end festive season, for instance, the women have been working very hard, making bags, Christmas tree ornaments, table cloth and table runners.

The other groups have been busy knitting scarves and shawls which volunteers — mostly expatriates — have taken home to sell during the holidays. The volunteers also held bazaars or parties, not unlike the Tupperware parties, at their homes to promote Mang Tha products.

Prior to this the women were trained on quality control and the marketability of their products. If, initially, their preference was to knit green with purple motifs, today they proudly display earthy shades of soft mufflers.

Another set of products that sells very well are household items made from beautiful hand-woven Chin fabrics. These are turned into table runners, cushion covers and bags.

The black fabrics, with vibrant green or red hand-woven designs along the border, immediately stand out, looking very traditional yet modern at the same time.

A designer’s playground, it’s no wonder that local fashion designer Datuk Bernard Chandran has agreed to give Mang Tha a helping hand by designing bags.

Mang Tha volunteers are also working on shipping in three bamboo looms so that the women can start weaving their own fabrics.

Sui Par’s three children have learned a little sewing from their mother.

But she’s hoping they will learn other skills too. The family is keen to improve their grasp of the English language, so with the help of a dictionary, they spend time reading in their home in Jalan Pudu.

KOTA BARU: The state Immigration Department has uncovered a new ploy by illegal immigrants trying to elude arrest; they are posing as refugees sanctioned by the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees.
They carry fake UNHCR cards to move around the country, get jobs and escape deportation.

Department enforcement division deputy assistant director Mohamad Zaidi Che Morad said syndicates involved in falsifying documents had found a good demand for the fake UNHCR cards.

"The cards are believed to have been produced by the syndicates in a few states and sold to the illegal immigrants," he said yesterday.

Zaidi said the department detected the tactic after confiscating a number of fake UNHCR cards in a series of operations held since last year.

"Syndicate members produce the cards based on demand from illegal immigrants, especially those from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

"The foreigners will carry the cards and pretend that they are refugees while working in this country."

In the latest case, Zaidi said, the department found a Myanmar who produced a fake UNHCR card when asked for his work permit and travel document last week.

"The Myanmar was arrested along with 23 other illegal immigrants for various offences under the Immigration Act.

"In the same operation, we also arrested eight Pakistanis for misusing their permits by working as petty traders, instead of working at construction sites."

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