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Friday, 28 May 2010

Will More Job Opportunities Help Burmese Refugees in Malaysia?

Will More Job Opportunities Help Burmese Refugees in Malaysia?

By Alinsek

Friday, 27 May 2010

UNHCR held a meeting on Friday in Kuala Lumpur with the Burmese refugee community and related organizations about job opportunities for refugees registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia.
UNHCR’s Community Development Unit (CDU) said that they are in discussion with the Malaysian government to allow refugees the opportunity to work. CDU said that the Malaysian government can issue identification cards to refugees registered with the UNHCR.

Although CDU is trying to ensure job opportunities for refugees, many contentious issues remain between UNHCR (Malaysia) and Burmese refugees, including the procedures and guidelines for granting of refugee status and equal treatment among refugees.

Maug Hla, chairperson of Burma Refugee Organization (BRO) said that,

“It [the job opportunity proposal] is a good plan of UNHCR. But, there are still many challenges and problems for Burmese refugees from discrimination of some UNHCR officers, especially registration officers.”

He said that, “Most Burmese ethnic refugees do not have a chance for registration with UNHCR. So, how can they seize and benefit from these opportunities? Moreover, the gaps between registered refugees and unregistered ones will widen.”
UNHCR (Malaysia) is rather notorious for its unfair and inefficient procedures. Most Burmese people, especially ethnic-Burmese and Buddhists, have no right to register for asylum.

Nearly three hundred Burmese refugees demonstrated in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur on 21 January 2009 demanding recognition of refugee status and equal treatment among refugees.

CDU officers said that they want to get the refugees lists of respective refugee organizations. Refugee organizations have to submit their members’ names, contact numbers, addresses, employment information, and so on.

Maung Hla added, “I appreciate the good works and plans of UNHCR. However, sometimes I worry that some UNHCR registration officers may be trying to get ethnic-Burmese and political activists into trouble and arrested by Malaysian police. They have refused to register ethnic-Burmese and democracy and human rights activists for over 3 years. It is grossly unfair and unkind.”
He continued, “Some UNHCR registration officers said that the ruling Myanmar military junta does not repress ethnic-Burmese people and Buddhists in Myanmar because the military junta is also Burmese and Buddhist. However, I have much evidence that this is a misconception towards refugees from Burma.”
As of January 2010, there were some 79,300 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, who came from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to UNHCR website statistics.

Of those, 62,000 are refugees from Burma, comprising 28,100 Chin, 16,100 Rohingya, 3,700 Burmese Muslims, 2,900 Kachin, and other ethnic minorities.

The UNHCR said a large number of Burmese refugees remain unregistered. The refugee community estimates that unregistered refugees and asylum-seekers could number 30,000 people.
The Malaysian government has cooperated with the UNHCR on humanitarian grounds since 1975 even though Malaysia has not signed the UN Convention Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Paul Alan Vernon, representative of UNHCR to Malaysia, met and discussed a range of issues pertaining to refugees and asylum seekers at the international level in February 2010 in Putrajaya, the administrative center of Malaysia.

Maung Hla said that, “Although the Malaysian government may understand the refugees on humanitarian grounds and may allow refugees to work, most Burmese-ethnic refugees and other unregistered asylum-seekers cannot seize the opportunities, and effectively lose all their rights. This has happened because of the unfair misconduct of some UNHCR officers.”

Some UNHCR officers’ misconduct and unfair procedures also work to discredit the UNHCR’s prestigious reputation in the opinion of social organizations such as Burma Refugee Organization (BRO) and some Myanmar organizations that in the past greatly respected the UN and co-operated actively with the UNHCR.
Maung Hla said that, “On March 17, 2010, a UNHCR registration officer told me that he gave BRO’s membership information to the Immigration Department. I was very shocked and disappointed by his totally unreasonable and illogical demand. It showed that he has no kindness or sympathy. Moreover, it breached our confidentiality.”

He added that, “We want to ask UNHCR if the intention of the CDU job opportunity plan is to make Burmese refugees feel happy or unhappy?”

"Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities:Progress for All"

UNHCR Slogan

1 comment:

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