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Will there soon be a Malaysian Rohingya?

September 27, 2016

As new Malaysian-born generations of Rohingyas arise, they will no longer be just ‘Rohingyas’ or Myanmarese.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is still grappling with the arrival and existence of more than a 150,000 Rohingyas.

And a lack of protection and policy has left Rohingyas in a state of limbo in Malaysia.

But something has to be done sooner rather than later to tackle this issue, according to Asean Today.

This is because Rohingya children are being born in Malaysia to Malaysian-born Rohingya mothers.

“With every new Malaysian-born generation of Rohingyas, it becomes increasingly clear that they are no longer just ‘Rohingyas’ or Myanmarese,” it points out.

An editorial in Asean Today says these second and third generation Malaysian-born Rohingyas are effectively stateless, as they are not eligible for residency or citizenship in Malaysia or Myanmar.

It draws parallels between their plight and that of Palestinians refugees living in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

“Today, many third or fourth generation, second-country born Palestinians do not have permanent residency or citizenship in their country of birth, even if the original refugees were in fact economic migrants.”

Therefore, as more and more Rohingyas are born in Malaysia, and the government continues to delay decisive action, citizenship and identity issues will pose additional problems in the future.

One third of the 150,000 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia are Rohingyas.

But advocacy groups say the number of registered Rohingyas is only a small portion of the actual number of Rohingyas living in the country.

“If Malaysia is waiting for the UNHCR to find countries accepting of the Rohingyas, they may be waiting a while,” says Asean Today.

It says since Malaysia already uses millions of foreign workers in its construction, manufacturing and domestic services sectors, it should find a way to utilise Rohingyas without encouraging illegal migration

“On multiple occasions, the Malaysian Government has proposed this exact strategy, but plans have never come to fruition. Part of overcoming these challenges will be establishing a system to assess the status of asylum seekers.”

Asean Today says: “Ultimately, this situation is a chance for Malaysia to prove its maturity as a nation and live up to its reputation as a tolerant country. Malaysia is in a prime position to take leadership of this issue and enhance its global credentials.”

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