Put people before politics for sake of nation and humanity, says parliamentary group on refugees in Malaysia

A general view of the Rohingya settlement here near Bandar Baru Sentul June 13, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
A general view of the Rohingya settlement here near Bandar Baru Sentul June 13, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — The All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (APPGM) has called for bipartisan cooperation to help the country develop appropriate and holistic policies on refugee management.

In a joint statement from its three divisions, the group said while Malaysia is not yet a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Malaysia has opened its doors to refugees from all over the world who face persecution on an ad hoc basis on humanitarian grounds.  

“However, with global displacement continuing to rise despite the Covid-19 pandemic, appropriate domestic policies on refugee management are urgently needed.

“The formulation of domestic refugee policies requires cross-party commitment to objectively assess the situation and determine the best policy options on refugee management in Malaysia,” it said. 

APPGM said that the process should take into account Malaysia’s unique development context, the humanitarian needs of refugees, resources and capacities, as well as Malaysia’s role in regional responsibility-sharing. 

It added that Malaysia should engage with diverse stakeholders including government agencies, parliamentarians, NGOs, the private sector and local and refugee community leaders. 

“While refugees are in Malaysia temporarily, it is essential to work towards policies that allow for basic rights prior to their resettlement to a third country, or their safe, dignified and voluntary return to their countries when they become peaceful again. 

“Concrete steps towards developing refugee policy would also demonstrate Malaysia’s ongoing commitment to human rights, and support Malaysia’s candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2022 - 2024,” it said. 

It said the lack of legal documentation, access to livelihood, education and healthcare, as well as continued risk of arrest and detention have resulted in refugees falling into poverty and marginalisation, which holds Malaysia back from its Sustainable Development goals and the Agenda 2030 objective of leaving no one behind. 

It added that the policy should also take into account the current challenge of controlling the spread of Covid-19 and the acceleration of public health, economic and social recovery. 

It said that the government needs to create an environment where refugees can come forward for testing and vaccination without the fear or arrest, adding that strengthening the relationship between refugees, vulnerable populations and local communities for a comprehensive health response has never been more critical. 

“The role of Parliamentarians from all political parties is vital in spearheading a serious bi-partisan dialogue based on data and facts for the development of a comprehensive refugee policy that is holistic and based on the best interest of all people in Malaysia. 

“We must put people before politics in the public interest of our nation and humanity,” it said. 

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