Latest Highlight

Rohingya still being smuggled into Malaysia despite ongoing crackdown

Thirteen-year-old Mohammad Kibas doing his chores at shelter home Humanitarian Aid Selangor. 

By Melissa Goh
July 24, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the ongoing crackdown against human trafficking in Thailand, the people smuggling network is still very much alive.

Scores from Rohingya from north west of Myanmar were still being smuggled into the Malaysia each month, seeking better lives for themselves and their families back home.

Thirteen-year-old Mohammad Kibas was one of them who survived the gruelling journey by road from Sittwe to Kuala Lumpur that took almost three months.

Being the eldest son in his family, his parents were worried that he might be targeted by the military crackdown last February, so they sold their land outside Sittwe and paid a local agent three million kyats (US$2,000) to bring him to Malaysia.

Mohd Kibas set off late February along with eight others, including a girl.

Squeezed into a compartment underneath the goods, they travelled by lorry from Sittwe to Yangon by lorry, then on foot to Mae Sot district near the Thai border before making their way to Padang Besar in southern Thailand.

There were days, he said, they walked for hours in mosquito-infested jungles with no food, moving from one transit hut to another.

Mohd Kibas said while he was not physically harmed, the girl he was travelling with disappeared one night and never returned.

He woke up one day in April and was told that he had reached Penang. After passing from one agent to another he finally arrived at a shelter home in May called Humanitarian Aid, run by Rohingya religious teacher Ustaz Rafik Ismail, outside Kuala Lumpur.

Mohd Kibas said he considered himself lucky to have escaped Rakhine. But added he missed his home and family badly. ''I miss them so much that it hurts, I just want to run back and see my family," he said.


Ustaz Rafik said authorities need to do more. Despite the tough legal action against kingpins and army generals in Thailand, the human trafficking syndicates continue to operate.

While the exodus of Rohingya has stopped after the blockade imposed by Myanmar and Bangladesh governments, some young Rohingya are still bracing the journey to come to Malaysia.

"ln 2013 and 2014, thousands used to arrive each month by boat, now they are still coming but there are not many, maybe 10 to 20 a month, it's all the younger generation," said Ustaz Rafik. 

"The journey is very hard, not the same like before in a boat. They have to walk through the jungles - it can take one month, two months, three months and there is no food; many tried but failed."

For those who made it, it is a one-way ticket.

Rohingyas who left Rakhine said they can never return home.

"Once you are out, you cannot go back in, so where can we go? Where else can we find help?" said 23-year-old Ahmad Nassim, who has been trying to renew his refugee card that's expired.

Outside the United Nations refugee agency in Kuala Lumpur, scores of Rohingya are still queuing each day to seek refugee status years after they had arrived in Malaysia.

Having a refugee card does not allow them to work legally, but at least it gives them certain medical and welfare benefits - and, more importantly, some form of protection against arrests from the authorities. But getting one issued by UNHCR is not easy as there are specific criteria that must be met.

There is no reprieve even for those with children born after they arrived in Malaysia.

"My babies were born in Malaysia but we are still unable to get a refugee card," said Anwarah Begum Abdul Ghafar.

There is no reprieve even for those with children born after they arrived in Malaysia.

Without a valid refugee card, many said they are constantly being harassed by authorities and can easily be arrested, as a nationwide crackdown is underway by Malaysian immigration enforcement department to flush out illegal migrant workers.

Write A Comment

Rohingya Exodus