Increase Protection Of Refugees

TENAGANITA Women’s Force, Press Statement. August 24, 2011  

Refugees with UNHCR cards were informed through their organizations, two days ago that they needed to get registered into the biometric system  at Putrajaya Immigration office.  Thousands of people – elderly, ill, young children, mothers with babies stood for hours in a cramped place, waited only to be told that they had to come the next day as the Immigration department could only register up to 2500 persons a day.    

This registration exercise further reinforces how inefficient, and unplanned the process of the amnesty program has been since it began in July.  The sporadic decision made without clear information provided to refugee communities has created anxieties with the refugee community on how the 6P amnesty program will be used and implemented for them.     The amnesty program was originally intended for the undocumented workers. 

The Home Ministry, then suddenly decided that it would also be for documented workers without any clear explanation.  Now, overnight refugees are told that they had to get registered without a clear deadline.  

According to information received from refugees who had registered, they received a slips called “Slip Pendaftaran PATI” which had another statement: “ Tujuan: Pulang Ke Negara Asal” (Purpose: Return to Home Country). 

This return slip has created a host of uncertainties and fears among the refugees that they could now be deported to their country of origin despite the fact they are recognized as refugees by UNHCR.  

This situation and development comes a day after Malaysia was condemned for refouling 11 Uighurs back to China, who is known to be tortured and persecuted for being members of the ethnic Uighur group.  This statement in the return slip is a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement in  Article 33 (1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention which states that: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”  

We are deeply concerned that there is also no clear direction from UNHCR as to why that “Tujuan:” is on the slip.  The UNHCR when contacted this morning said they are still trying to verify this statement.   This whole registration of refugees under the 6P program should immediately be halted.  The 6P program does not relate to refugees.  They are NOT migrant workers and thus should be treated under a different framework. One dimension of the 6P program is deportation which cannot be applied to refugees.  

The lack of information and lack of consultation on the process of how the registration will impact on refugees has only resulted in increasing the anxiety and stress on the refugee population.  Even UNHCR as the lead agency, is unclear and not able to provide proper information to the refugee community.   The organization is equally concerned with the large number of persons of concern, about 20,000 – 30,000 who are awaiting registration from UNHCR.  The absence of a UNHCR card does not mean their lives in their home country are in any less of a threat, nor are they any less of a refugee. They in fact have a heightened level of vulnerability because they’ve not been included in UNHCR’s system yet and neither are they undocumented workers. 

Will this 6P exercise exacerbate their vulnerabilities and increase their risk to deportation and consequent persecution?   The Home Ministry must be more responsible and make clear decisions that are transparent and accountable.  However, this whole amnesty program has been riddled with questions and uncertainties.  The Ministry has only given responses that reflect arrogance of power and not good governance.  The same sporadic decisions are now reflected in the registration of refugees with no consultation, planning and processes set in place.   The registration exercise under the 6P program must be discontinued.  The Home Ministry must make public and clarify the objectives, procedures and policy for the registration of refugees and how will it impact on their continued stay in the country; what will be the new opportunities and benefits for the refugee community; and how will it impact on their resettlement process. 

If there is any form of registration by the government, it must be to increase the protection of the rights of refugees.   END.  

Signed:         Dr. Irene Fernandez       Executive Director, Tenaganita.    

   TENAGANITA Women’s Force       

NO 38, Jalan Gasing, 46000,       Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan       Tel: (603) 7770 3691 / 7770 3671        Fax: (603) 7770 3681       Email: irene.a@tenaganita.net /general@tenaganita.net          Website: http://www.facebook.com/#!/tenaganita

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