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Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar seek sanctuary in Malaysia

By Rian Maelzer
January 4, 2015

Malaysia is experiencing the impact of a surge in Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar in recent months. Many of the new arrivals describe horrifying ordeals they endured to make their way to Malaysia. CCTV News reporter Rian Maelzer reported this story from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Some 40,000 Rohingyas in Malaysia carry refugee cards issued by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Possibly just as many have yet to be registered, and live in fear of being detained and deported.

Activists say that in recent months as many as 18,000 have arrived, desperately straining the community’s limited resources.

Ayub Khan, a Rohingya refugee, is now partially paralyzed after being slashed on his shoulder as he tried to flee a mob in his hometown, before escaping to Thailand.

“We were in the jungle. The human traffickers beat people, beat them severely. Some died there in the jungle. Some of us managed to escape. Thanks be to God I made it to Malaysia,” he said. 

Those who make it to Malaysia find themselves in legal limbo. With Malaysia not having ratified the U.N. convention on refugees, they cannot work legally or send their children to school, even if their children were born in Malaysia.

Last year, Malaysia’s Minister of Home Affairs said the government would look at granting the refugees work permits, but nothing has been finalized. 

Immigration department officials have said they oppose the idea, believing it would attract more refugees.

But those fleeing the violence in Myanmar said it’s not a matter of choice.

“There’s no hope to return to my country. Following the death of my husband I’m feeling so anxious, always worrying about my children, about how to save them. There’s no choice,” said a woman named Nayeemah, whose husband was killed by traffickers as they fled to Thailand.

Nayeemah prays the U.N. will resettle her family to a third country. But that remains a distant dream, as some have waited up to three decades in Malaysia with vain hopes of resettlement.

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