Anwar: Protect refugees, but no chance for equal rights as citizens

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaks during the ‘Meet Anwar’ dialogue in Kuala Lumpur September 16, 2018. — Picture by Razak Ghazali
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaks during the ‘Meet Anwar’ dialogue in Kuala Lumpur September 16, 2018. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — Incoming PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said that refugees in Malaysia can be protected, sheltered and cared for on humanitarian grounds, but cannot be accorded similar status as Malaysians.

In a dialogue with youths at the Corus Hotel here, the former deputy prime minister said that there needs to be a balance between upholding human rights and protecting the welfare of one’s own citizens.

“Now on the question whether refugees can have rights. I mean, we treat them as human beings, but you cannot give all refugees equal rights as Malaysians,” said Anwar.

“When someone comes to your house, you give them food, care for them, on humane grounds, but do you give them the same status as your children? It’s difficult.

“That’s why for me, we cannot give equal treatment as citizens, but we can protect them, protect them if they have been harassed or condemned or have atrocities afflicted against them in their own country,” he added.

Anwar was responding to a question from an audience member as to how Malaysia can better improve its treatment of refugees, and allow them equal access to education.

Pakatan Harapan had in its election manifesto of 60 promises, listed as item 59, the promise to ratify the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention to enable refugees who come to Malaysia to receive appropriate aid.

Malaysia has, to date, only signed three out of the nine core international human rights instruments, namely the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The six UN treaties that Malaysia has yet to ratify include: The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The remaining ones unsigned also include the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

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