The Yearning refugees in Malaysia

Shahid Ilyas Khan

The famous American journalist and author Jorge Ramos once said “The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants”. In modern day world a civilized state not only comprises of its nationals but also of some foreigners living there. These foreigners are either immigrants or refugees. The question arises what are the reasons when a person leaves his motherland and opts to go for Foreign lands.

The British writer Warsan Shire has beautifully answered this by saying “No one leaves home unless the home is the mouth of a shark”. Home is like heaven but war, poverty, hunger, religious persecution or political differences turn those heavens into hell. People are compelled to enter foreign countries either as immigrants for better economic opportunities or as refugees to save their skin.

Many countries are host to such immigrants and refugees including Malaysia. There was a time when Malaysia was not amongst the fast growing economies. Its inhabitants mostly used boiled things as their food because they were unfamiliar with spices, and did not know their use in food. But then God blessed the people of Malaysia and sent foreigners there, who started working there and constructed splendid roads, houses and buildings.

Every foreign expatriate when leaves his home intends to return to his own country once his economic problems are over or the reasons of his seeking asylum are no more there.

With the advent of the immigrants and refugee workers, a sense of envy and jealousy arose in Malaysian locals when they observed that expatriates coming from different countries earn well from labor, because the native Malays are known for their bizarre nature. Most of the time they do nothing and sit idle in their homes.

The Malaysian nationals of Chinese and Indian origin are considered very hard working as compared to the Malay citizens. A recent study of different behavioural changes in Malaysia shows that the Malays are often envious of the businesses and other achievements of the foreign immigrants and refugees and they want to ruin them somehow.

The last year national media reports indicate that Malays even keep such conduct with Muslim expatriates which is against the Universal Declaration of human rights. They even ingurgitate the salaries of their foreign expatriates working as employees. Some criminal gangs are involved in keeping Foreigners in their private detention centres and jails and they demand extortion money from them.

The local police and immigration department do not adopt a proactive approach against such criminals. Even the refugees in Malaysia who are registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are also treated inhumanly. There is no sympathetic treatment towards them. Neither they can do labor freely nor they can roam around in a free manner.

While the UNHCR plays a very indolent role in their release once apprehended by police.The refugees have blamed that there is no media campaign by this UN body in Malaysia for the rights of immigrants, and the reason behind this is the poor performance of media section of UNHCR at Malaysia.

They are blamed for being lackadaisical while media section staff of UNHCR in others countries always strive hard to raise the voice for refugees on every forum. UNHCR Malaysia needs to make its media wing strong, by recruiting people who would diligently fight for the rights of the Refugees. UNHCR needs to organize seminars and conferences for local police and immigration officers in order to sensitize them.

The UNHCR need to launch a campaign to promote compassion towards refugees and to discard the frequent arrests of refugees for no reason. UNHCR should work for resettlement of the refugees who have been living in Malaysia for more than a decade as most of the refugees treat Malaysia as a transit country.

The Malaysian government should also encourage UNHCR to speed up the process of resettlement for such refugees who have been living in Malaysia for more than ten years. The civil rights organisations blame the Work Permit System for the expatriates in Malaysia as a faulty one. They demand the Malaysian authorities to redesign its Work Permit System on the pattern of Dubai.

These organisations also demand that the Immigration and police department should recruit properly trained and well educated people who can read and speak English so that they would be mindful of the problems of the expatriates. No country in the world treats its foreign expatriates and refugees inhumanly as it is done there. If these foreigners are forced to go back to their countries, Malaysian economy will be in doldrums.

In order to improve its image in the comity of nations, the Malaysian government should introduce pro-immigrant and pro-refugee policies to make its society more cohesive and inclusive. The world is now a global village. We may have different languages, we may have different religions, we may have different coloured skin but at end we all belong to one Human Race.