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Malaysia pushes for Rohingya solution, with eye on human traffickers

Without a home: Rohingya women and children waiting in a queue to collect water at the Leda camp, an unregistered camp for Rohingya in Teknaf, south of Dhaka, Bangladesh. — AP

January 18, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is pushing hard for a solution to the Rohingya crisis as it can ill afford another flood of illegal immigrants from Myanmar.

Tomorrow, Kuala Lumpur will play host to foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Coope­ration (OIC) for an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis.

According to the latest report from the United Nations, more than 60,000 Rohingya have already crossed the border into Bangladesh since October last year to flee the violence against them.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, when asked about the possibility of another wave of Rohingya fleeing to Malaysian shores, said authorities were keeping a close eye on human traffickers who may try to bring them in.

He said the Rohingya were not encouraged to come to Malaysia, adding that normal immigration laws would prevail to assess those who came into the country, to see if they qualified as legitimate refugees or economic migrants.

“The Home Ministry also cautions the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to exercise restraint and not issue their cards to ineligible persons,” he added.

There are reportedly about 50,000 Rohingya in Malaysia. In May 2015, 1,158 illegal immigrants, including Rohingya, were dumped by human traffickers on the shores of Langkawi.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that as at Jan 12, 66,000 new arrivals from Myanmar have been recorded in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh since October 2016.

“In terms of boats, we haven’t heard of any significant maritime movements during this dry season so far,” said OCHA’s public information and advocacy officer Pierre Peron when contacted.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar said the agency had been on alert in monitoring Malaysian waters for the possible arrival of more Rohingya refugees.

“We are also in constant contact with our Thai counterpart as any boats of refugees heading to Malaysia must pass Thai waters first. 

“We are keeping a lookout in case they do arrive, to prevent any mishap, including overloading,” he said yesterday.

The OIC’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said as the biggest recipient of the Rohingya in Asean, Malaysia was justified in taking a strong position on the issue.

“We don’t want any country to be given a licence to chase their people out and we end up being forced to accept them.

“We want Myanmar to solve the problem so that the Rohingya who are here can return to their country in peace,” said Syed Hamid.

Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign spokesman James Lochhead said the Rohingya understood that they had no rights or legal status in Malaysia.

“Until that situation changes, they will think twice about coming,” he said.

Majlis Ulama Rohingya president Mohd Jaber Mohd Subahan said most of the Rohingya who came to Malaysia hoped to be able to return home one day.

“We are appreciative of the countries that take us in, but the ultimate dream is to be able to go back to Myanmar, and be recognised as citizens with basic rights,” he said.

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Rohingya Exodus