Charity begins at home, Suhakam reminds Putrajaya amid govt’s immigrant crackdown

File picture shows a view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. — Picture Hari Anggara
File picture shows a view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. — Picture Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today urged the federal government to live up to its commitment to protect the rights of immigrants within the country’s borders and not just on the international stage.

It said it was concerned with recent statements by government officials that broadly portray the migrant community regardless of whether they were undocumented or irregular migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers, as a threat to the safety, security and health of Malaysians.

“The Malaysian Government has been condemning xenophobia at international fora and should do the same in the country. We should work towards typifying the spirit of empathy and humanity that Malaysians are known for.

“The Government should commit to strictly observe the international principle of non-refoulement of refugees/asylum seekers, and instead undertake to protect and provide the migrant and refugee community with necessary assistance to be able to live their lives in dignity, able to seek work, access to education, healthcare and shelter whilst in the country,” Suhakam said in a statement.

It urged the government to rethink its strong-arm approach towards the immigrant community to avoid further infringements upon human rights principles or aggravating the current public health crises.

“Instilling fear through threats of arrests and detention of undocumented foreigners is counter-productive, in light of on-going efforts to overcome the Pandemic and the urgency to achieve herd immunity,” Suhakam said.

The National Task Force was criticised online recently after it released a poster telling the stateless Rohingya community that they were not welcome in Malaysia.

The government has also been carrying out a multi-agency operation in a sweep against undocumented migrants that often does not distinguish their status as refugees, asylum seekers or even irregular migrants.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin has been reported defending the dragnet as necessary to protect Malaysians against security and safety threats, especially now with the country’s high Covid-19 infection rates.

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