MEDIA RELEASE

23 April 2022

ROHINGYA SEEKING REFUGE, MET WITH DETENTION, MISTREATMENT AND DEATH

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition is appalled by the series of incidents that occurred at the Sungai Bakap Temporary Detention Centre, Kedah on 20 April 2022. 528 Rohingya refugees out of 664 detainees, as was reported, included women and children, escaped from the detention centre using “their bare hands”.  Mere hours later, there have been reports that six of them—including two children—were killed in road accidents.

Since the Rohingya crisis first occurred, many of them sought asylum in Malaysia after crossing the sea—only to find cruel fate meeting them at our doors. Instead of recognising their fundamental rights as refugees and human beings, Malaysia turned its head away and treated them as undocumented immigrants who are subjected to the Immigration Act and its relevant rules, regulations and policies.

The Immigration Act does not distinguish between child, adult and vulnerable people. In fact, during a Special Chambers session in December 2021, Deputy Home Minister Jonathan Yasin revealed that up until 21 November 2021, there were 1,549 children out of 19,143 detainees in immigration detention centres, including temporary immigration detention centres, in the whole of Malaysia.

As a result, the Rohingya are arrested, detained and placed in immigration centres without being able to secure their fundamental liberties. This was made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2018 to 15 February 2021, there have been a total of 208 deaths in custody at immigration detention centres in Malaysia. The cause of death is mostly related to health complications, including the contraction of the COVID-19 virus.

It was reported that the detainees were protesting the authorities’ denial of medication for one of the detainees’ illness who subsequently passed on.  There have been reports in the past of poor and unhygienic conditions in such detention centres, it is evident that there has not been much effective measures taken in this direction.  These living, breathing human beings have been suffering from lack of medical attention, standard operating procedures and adequate facilities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the pandemic.

There have been reports of gross violations of fundamental rights besides denial of medical care, ranging from denial of right to inform a relative or friend of whereabouts and right to counsel, with little access to the outside world. They also face overcrowding due to the long delays in executing deportation orders.

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition demands accountability from all authorities responsible in the Sungai Bakap incident, and for the death of all those in custody. Malaysia must present itself as more than a mere seat warmer at the UN Human Rights Council and uphold its international obligations under CEDAW and CRC. The Government must bear the full weight of this tragedy and seek justice for those who have lost their lives fighting for a chance of survival in Malaysia.

 

The Migrant Workers Right To Redress Coalition strongly call for:

  1. An independent inquiry into the cause of the Sungai Bakap riot, breakout and death, where the  facts are publicly available;
  1. An independent inquiry into the number and composition of Rohingya men, women and children detained in immigration depots in Malaysia, including the grounds of their arrests;
  2. Accountability for the mistreatment and death of Rohingya in custody;
  3. Allow SUHAKAM and UNHCR  access to all immigration detention centres to monitor the living conditions and obtain data of the detainees, especially that of the remaining detainees at the Sungai Bakap Detention Centre.
  4. The inclusion of Rohingya children in the Government’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) for Children pilot project that officially started in February 2022;
  1. Better policies to be institutionalised for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

*Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition is a coalition of NGOS and other stakeholders that lobbies for a comprehensive policy on labour migration in Malaysia.

Organisations: Family Frontiers, WAO, Asylum Access Malaysia, Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign, NSI, PSWS, Tenaganita, and PSM.

MEDIA RELEASE

30 October 2019

Government must address restrictions to civic freedoms of migrants and refugees

A new report by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Solidarity Centre has found that migrant and refugees in Malaysia continue to face various barriers and restrictions in exercising their civic freedoms including their freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

The report “Freedoms on the move: The Civic Space of Migrant of refugees” which covers five countries including Malaysia highlights that many migrant workers and refugees want to access their civic freedoms. They want to participate in the societies they call home and do not want to remain on the margins. They want to have a say in their communities and their workplaces, and on the decisions that affect their lives.

“For migrant workers and refugees, these freedoms offer protection against discrimination, marginalisation and scapegoating, which commonly affect them in their host or destination countries. When the rights to association, peaceful assembly and expression are open to migrant workers and refugees, they can organize and act to uphold their interests in their workplaces and communities and influence public opinion,” said Josef Benedict, researcher for CIVICUS.

Research on the civic space of migrants in Malaysia was undertaken with North South Initiative together with migrant movements SERANTAU, PNCC and AMMPO while Geutanyoe Foundation led on the research on refugees.

The findings show that many migrant workers and refugees do not feel confident to criticize or call on the authorities to meet their needs. When they do speak up, they often feel that they are ignored, and that the government rarely listens to them. Migrant workers and refugees say that among the challenges they face in speaking out include language barriers, a lack of access to information fear of being fired, detained or deported and harassment or intimidation. The main perpetrators of violations of the right to freedom of expression for migrant workers are employers and business owners while for refugees are the police and other state agents.

The right to protest also continues to be challenging as the right to assemble in the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) does not extend to foreigners including migrant workers and refugees which is in contravention of international human rights law and standards. Many said that they do not feel safe to protest in the streets and believe if they take part in protests they could be fired from their job, removed from their workplace, perhaps without payment for work already done detained or deported.

“Human rights especially the right to peacefully assemble must not stop at the border. The Malaysian government must immediately review the Peaceful Assembly Act and other laws that deny refugees and migrants their civic freedoms especially the right to participate in peaceful meetings, protests, strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations,” said Lilianne Fan the International Director and Co-Founder of the Geutanyoe Foundation.

Refugee and migrant workers also face various restrictions in exercising their freedom of association. While some migrant workers have formed informal organisations to support themselves many do not feel safe or confident to do this as the law prohibits the operation of unregistered groups. Migrant workers also say intimidation and pressure from their employers is the main reason why they have not organised and migrant workers say they are often coerced by agents or their employers not to join unions.

“The freedom of association is recognised as one of the most fundamental human rights, within society at large, and in communities and workplaces. The Malaysian authorities must respect and protect this right. Trade unions and diplomatic missions must also support the participation and engagement of migrant workers and refugees in unions and associations, said Adrian Pereira the director of North South Initiative (NSI).

International human rights law does not limit civil and political rights to citizens. Like everyone else, migrant workers and refuges should be able to enjoy the key civic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. These are important freedoms in themselves, because they enable people to be full members of their societies, allowing them to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. They also safeguard access to other rights.

Access to civic rights is particularly crucial given that most migrant workers and refugees are usually denied the right to vote in the countries in which they live, as well as in the countries they have left behind, and are therefore excluded from a crucial opportunity to influence decision-makers on issues that directly affect their lives.

 

***************************

For further information or interviews please contact:

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Reseacher at josef.benedict@civicus.org or 010-43766376

Lilianne Fan, the International Director and Co-Founder of the Geutanyoe Foundation at lilianne.fan@gmail.com or 011-1958 7721

Adrian Pereira, Director of North South Initiative (NSI) at liberationx@gmail.com or 012-290 0756

MEDIA RELEASE

15 March 2019

Government must release findings of Independent Committee on Foreign Workers

The Government must publish the findings of the Independent Committee on Foreign Workers and allow respective communities to discuss and debate its findings before any further major policy changes are made to the current rules, according to the Right to Redress Coalition (R2R).

“We understand that the report was completed in January and subsequently submitted to the Human Resources Minister, yet we still have no information on what they recommended or what the Government’s response has been to its recommendations”, said R2R spokesperson Adrian Pereira.

There were a series of town hall meetings across the nation, in addition to various stakeholder meetings, including CSOs, community leaders, expatriates, migrant and domestic workers, refugees and asylum seekers, foreign spouses, gave their feedback to the Independent Committee on Foreign workers. 

 Pereira said that this Government had an obligation to be transparent in policy process, and that there are tens of thousands of migrant workers in a precarious situation that would benefit from greater clarity.

“It certainly seems like major policy changes are proceeding. On 31 March the outsourcing firms that recruit and manage migrant workers will be abolished. We are expecting reforms to the Employment Act will soon be tabled by the Government.”

“Migrant worker communities – along with the citizens of Malaysia – deserve some clarity with regard to the recommendations of the Independent Committee, and whether the Government is taking those recommendations into account when it creates policy.”

Pereira said that all too often migration is a political game, but the reality for many migrant workers is one of exploitation and suffering.

“No migrant worker comes to Malaysia planning to break the law; they come looking for a better way of life. Greater transparency is required  to ensure that migrant workers and businesses alike can plan for their financial futures.” 

“Without a transparent rule-making process in which stakeholders voices are heard, the scale of exploitation in this country cannot be addressed.”  In the interest of transparency and good governence, it is only right that the recommendations of the Independent Committee on Foreign Workers be released. 

 

– Ends-

For further comment, contact:

Adrian Periera, R2R spokesperson, on +60 12 290 0756

MEDIA RELEASE

23 April 2022

ROHINGYA SEEKING REFUGE, MET WITH DETENTION, MISTREATMENT AND DEATH

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition is appalled by the series of incidents that occurred at the Sungai Bakap Temporary Detention Centre, Kedah on 20 April 2022. 528 Rohingya refugees out of 664 detainees, as was reported, included women and children, escaped from the detention centre using “their bare hands”.  Mere hours later, there have been reports that six of them—including two children—were killed in road accidents.

Since the Rohingya crisis first occurred, many of them sought asylum in Malaysia after crossing the sea—only to find cruel fate meeting them at our doors. Instead of recognising their fundamental rights as refugees and human beings, Malaysia turned its head away and treated them as undocumented immigrants who are subjected to the Immigration Act and its relevant rules, regulations and policies.

The Immigration Act does not distinguish between child, adult and vulnerable people. In fact, during a Special Chambers session in December 2021, Deputy Home Minister Jonathan Yasin revealed that up until 21 November 2021, there were 1,549 children out of 19,143 detainees in immigration detention centres, including temporary immigration detention centres, in the whole of Malaysia.

As a result, the Rohingya are arrested, detained and placed in immigration centres without being able to secure their fundamental liberties. This was made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2018 to 15 February 2021, there have been a total of 208 deaths in custody at immigration detention centres in Malaysia. The cause of death is mostly related to health complications, including the contraction of the COVID-19 virus.

It was reported that the detainees were protesting the authorities’ denial of medication for one of the detainees’ illness who subsequently passed on.  There have been reports in the past of poor and unhygienic conditions in such detention centres, it is evident that there has not been much effective measures taken in this direction.  These living, breathing human beings have been suffering from lack of medical attention, standard operating procedures and adequate facilities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the pandemic.

There have been reports of gross violations of fundamental rights besides denial of medical care, ranging from denial of right to inform a relative or friend of whereabouts and right to counsel, with little access to the outside world. They also face overcrowding due to the long delays in executing deportation orders.

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition demands accountability from all authorities responsible in the Sungai Bakap incident, and for the death of all those in custody. Malaysia must present itself as more than a mere seat warmer at the UN Human Rights Council and uphold its international obligations under CEDAW and CRC. The Government must bear the full weight of this tragedy and seek justice for those who have lost their lives fighting for a chance of survival in Malaysia.

 

The Migrant Workers Right To Redress Coalition strongly call for:

  1. An independent inquiry into the cause of the Sungai Bakap riot, breakout and death, where the  facts are publicly available;
  1. An independent inquiry into the number and composition of Rohingya men, women and children detained in immigration depots in Malaysia, including the grounds of their arrests;
  2. Accountability for the mistreatment and death of Rohingya in custody;            
  3. Allow SUHAKAM and UNHCR  access to all immigration detention centres to monitor the living conditions and obtain data of the detainees, especially that of the remaining detainees at the Sungai Bakap Detention Centre.
  4. The inclusion of Rohingya children in the Government’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) for Children pilot project that officially started in February 2022;
  1. Better policies to be institutionalised for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

*Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition is a coalition of NGOS and other stakeholders that lobbies for a comprehensive policy on labour migration in Malaysia.

Organisations: Family Frontiers, WAO, Asylum Access Malaysia, Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign, NSI, PSWS, Tenaganita, and PSM.

MEDIA RELEASE 

30 October 2019

Government must address restrictions to civic freedoms of migrants and refugees

A new report by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Solidarity Centre has found that migrant and refugees in Malaysia continue to face various barriers and restrictions in exercising their civic freedoms including their freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. 

The report “Freedoms on the move: The Civic Space of Migrant of refugees” which covers five countries including Malaysia highlights that many migrant workers and refugees want to access their civic freedoms. They want to participate in the societies they call home and do not want to remain on the margins. They want to have a say in their communities and their workplaces, and on the decisions that affect their lives.

“For migrant workers and refugees, these freedoms offer protection against discrimination, marginalisation and scapegoating, which commonly affect them in their host or destination countries. When the rights to association, peaceful assembly and expression are open to migrant workers and refugees, they can organize and act to uphold their interests in their workplaces and communities and influence public opinion,” said Josef Benedict, researcher for CIVICUS.

Research on the civic space of migrants in Malaysia was undertaken with North South Initiative together with migrant movements SERANTAU, PNCC and AMMPO while Geutanyoe Foundation led on the research on refugees.

The findings show that many migrant workers and refugees do not feel confident to criticize or call on the authorities to meet their needs. When they do speak up, they often feel that they are ignored, and that the government rarely listens to them. Migrant workers and refugees say that among the challenges they face in speaking out include language barriers, a lack of access to information fear of being fired, detained or deported and harassment or intimidation. The main perpetrators of violations of the right to freedom of expression for migrant workers are employers and business owners while for refugees are the police and other state agents.

The right to protest also continues to be challenging as the right to assemble in the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) does not extend to foreigners including migrant workers and refugees which is in contravention of international human rights law and standards. Many said that they do not feel safe to protest in the streets and believe if they take part in protests they could be fired from their job, removed from their workplace, perhaps without payment for work already done detained or deported.

“Human rights especially the right to peacefully assemble must not stop at the border. The Malaysian government must immediately review the Peaceful Assembly Act and other laws that deny refugees and migrants their civic freedoms especially the right to participate in peaceful meetings, protests, strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations,” said Lilianne Fan the International Director and Co-Founder of the Geutanyoe Foundation.

Refugee and migrant workers also face various restrictions in exercising their freedom of association. While some migrant workers have formed informal organisations to support themselves many do not feel safe or confident to do this as the law prohibits the operation of unregistered groups. Migrant workers also say intimidation and pressure from their employers is the main reason why they have not organised and migrant workers say they are often coerced by agents or their employers not to join unions.

“The freedom of association is recognised as one of the most fundamental human rights, within society at large, and in communities and workplaces. The Malaysian authorities must respect and protect this right. Trade unions and diplomatic missions must also support the participation and engagement of migrant workers and refugees in unions and associations, said Adrian Pereira the director of North South Initiative (NSI).

International human rights law does not limit civil and political rights to citizens. Like everyone else, migrant workers and refuges should be able to enjoy the key civic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. These are important freedoms in themselves, because they enable people to be full members of their societies, allowing them to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. They also safeguard access to other rights.

Access to civic rights is particularly crucial given that most migrant workers and refugees are usually denied the right to vote in the countries in which they live, as well as in the countries they have left behind, and are therefore excluded from a crucial opportunity to influence decision-makers on issues that directly affect their lives.

 

***************************

For further information or interviews please contact:

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Reseacher at josef.benedict@civicus.org or 010-43766376

Lilianne Fan, the International Director and Co-Founder of the Geutanyoe Foundation at lilianne.fan@gmail.com or 011-1958 7721

Adrian Pereira, Director of North South Initiative (NSI) at liberationx@gmail.com or 012-290 0756

MEDIA RELEASE

15 March 2019

Government must release findings of Independent Committee on Foreign Workers

The Government must publish the findings of the Independent Committee on Foreign Workers and allow respective communities to discuss and debate its findings before any further major policy changes are made to the current rules, according to the Right to Redress Coalition (R2R).

“We understand that the report was completed in January and subsequently submitted to the Human Resources Minister, yet we still have no information on what they recommended or what the Government’s response has been to its recommendations”, said R2R spokesperson Adrian Pereira.

There were a series of town hall meetings across the nation, in addition to various stakeholder meetings, including CSOs, community leaders, expatriates, migrant and domestic workers, refugees and asylum seekers, foreign spouses, gave their feedback to the Independent Committee on Foreign workers. 

 Pereira said that this Government had an obligation to be transparent in policy process, and that there are tens of thousands of migrant workers in a precarious situation that would benefit from greater clarity.

“It certainly seems like major policy changes are proceeding. On 31 March the outsourcing firms that recruit and manage migrant workers will be abolished. We are expecting reforms to the Employment Act will soon be tabled by the Government.”

“Migrant worker communities – along with the citizens of Malaysia – deserve some clarity with regard to the recommendations of the Independent Committee, and whether the Government is taking those recommendations into account when it creates policy.”

Pereira said that all too often migration is a political game, but the reality for many migrant workers is one of exploitation and suffering.

“No migrant worker comes to Malaysia planning to break the law; they come looking for a better way of life. Greater transparency is required  to ensure that migrant workers and businesses alike can plan for their financial futures.” 

“Without a transparent rule-making process in which stakeholders voices are heard, the scale of exploitation in this country cannot be addressed.”  In the interest of transparency and good governence, it is only right that the recommendations of the Independent Committee on Foreign Workers be released. 

 

– Ends-

For further comment, contact:

Adrian Periera, R2R spokesperson, on +60 12 290 0756