MEDIA STATEMENT: GOVERNMENT HAS TO BE TRANSPARENT AND IMPLEMENT BETTER REFUGEE POLICIES AND PROVISIONS
The Rohingya refugee breakout incident yesterday has received wide international attention and risks further damaging the reputation of the nation. Noting that recent allegations of abuses of undocumented workers by Malaysian companies have had negative impact on our exports and trade, this most recent refugee incident, will likely add on the negative image that our multiracial middle income nation is increasingly becoming more xenophobic and uncaring.
We need to reverse this situation quickly and decisively before this image becomes ingrained and permanently damages our economy and international standing.
This breakout does not appear to be a planned incident with any external help, as these refugees, including young children were reported to be merely walking barefoot without any food or water, and without any clear final destination. To me, it appears that all they wanted to do was to get as far away from the Sungai Bakap detention centre as they possibly could. This was clearly an act of extreme desperation.
So the onus should be on the government to be transparent and accountable on what was really going on in the Sungai Bakap depot, including all other temporary immigration detention depots too.
The most pressing issue now is to ensure that the re-arrested refugees are not mistreated and met with retributive punishments. In particular, Suhakam and the UNHCR should be given immediate access to the re-arrested refugees and also the full right to inspect the Sungai Bakap detention depot. A proper accounting and recording of the causes of the incident has to take place. We have to ask the following fundamental questions; were the refugees in Sungai Bakap given adequate shelter, food, health services and for the children, access to education? This reporting must also make recommendations on how to improve and the government must then implement these improvements immediately.
This breakout should be viewed, not as a one off human tragedy but as a serious policy wake-up call incident for the government to be more transparent and do much more to help refugees seeking asylum in Malaysia.
To that end, I urge the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Fundamental Liberties and Constitutional Rights to summon the home minister, Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainuddin to testify and answer some fundamental refugee policy issues. The minister has to answer as to why since August 2019, the government has stopped the UNHCR from having full access to refugees seeking asylum in Malaysia. The minister has to disclose to Parliament how much we are spending on managing refugees and be fiscally accountable on all related expenditure items. The minister also has to revamp, develop and then implement better policies and administrative provisions to process applications for asylum.
Lastly, I want to remind the minister to look at the bigger picture and understand that in this day and age where ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria are important, that his next steps and actions will have an impact on our economy and international standing. I pray that for the nation's sake, that he takes the right and humanitarian approach, more so in this holy month of Ramadhan. YB Wong Chen Member of Parliament for Subang 21 April 2022