Latest Highlight

Putrajaya can offer Rohingyas food and oil… but not entry, Parliament told

A Rohingya migrant, who arrived in Indonesia by boat, uses his handphone during sunset at a temporary compound for refugees in Kuala Cangkoi village in Lhoksukon, Indonesia's Aceh Province May 17, 2015. — Reuters pic

By Yap Tzu Ging
May 19, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR — Putrajaya cannot arbitrarily allow foreigners into the country as it is bound by restrictions in local immigration laws, a minister explained today amid criticisms over Malaysia’s refusal to rescue the thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who was urged to explain the issue during Question Time in Parliament this morning, pointed out that foreigners without valid travel documents cannot be permitted entry into Malaysia.

“We insist that we will not accept those without proper documentations and passports into the country,” the minister said when asked why Putrajaya has been turning back boatfuls of refugees when the country has often been used as a transit point for refugees escaping persecution in their countries.

Shahidan said all Putrajaya can do at this juncture is to offer the refugees aid in the form of “food and oil”.

“But we cannot simply accept someone in, we have to follow the laws,” he added.

Over 1,000 Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugees landed in Langkawi on May 10 and were subsequently sent to the Belantik detention centre in Kedah.

Migrant activists estimate that some 8,000 Bangladeshi and Rohingya remain stranded at sea after people smugglers abandoned ship following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement on May 8 that some 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis boarded smugglers’ boats between January and March this year, almost double the number over the same period last year.

International newswire AFP reported yesterday diplomats and analysts as saying that Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ pledge of non-interference and its failure to curb Myanmar’s systematic abuse of the Rohingya — who suffer state-sanctioned discrimination and are denied citizenship despite having lived in Myanmar for generations - have contributed to the migrant crisis in the region.

Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have been turning away boats of migrants back out to sea as the International Organisation of Migration reportedly criticised Asean nations for playing “maritime ping-pong” with people’s lives.

Write A Comment

Rohingya Exodus