FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amy Alexander
Regional Advocacy Officer
U.S. Senate Releases Report on Abuses in Malaysia, Raids Continue
24 April 2009: Even as the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations publicly released its report documenting the mistreatment of Burmese migrants in Malaysia, the Malaysian authorities continue to conduct raids on refugee neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. CHRO calls for UNHCR to take immediate action to intervene on behalf of detained Chin refugees and asylum seekers.
The Malaysian authorities rounded up and detained some 300 migrants, including small children, during raids in the Imbi neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday night, April 22. Over 100 Chin refugees and asylum seekers are among those arrested, including 14 children and two pregnant women. The authorities have been conducting similar raids throughout the city with increasing frequency during this past month.
In the midst of ongoing raids in Malaysia, half the world away, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations publicly released its report Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand, calling on the Malaysian government to address problems of trafficking and other abuses in Malaysia. The report findings include the involvement of Malaysian officials in the arrest, detention, and extortion of Burmese migrants and refugees; mistreatment of detainees in detention facilities, including whippings and torture; and the transfer of Burmese migrants and refugees to traffickers for payment. Burmese migrants and refugees in the hands of traffickers are subject to further extortion and mistreatment and are at risk of being sold into the fishing or sex industry. The report is based on a one-year investigation by the Senate Committee and includes information provided by NGOs, including CHRO, as well as first-hand testimony from trafficking victims.
“Chin refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia have long been subject to abuse and exploitation by Malaysian officials and their operatives,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of CHRO. “We appreciate this initiative by the U.S. government and hope it will put pressure on the Malaysian government to act responsibly towards migrants and refugees living within its borders.”
The 106 Chin refugees and asylum seekers caught up in the raids earlier this week are currently being held in Bukit Jali police station. According to Kennedy Lal Ram Lian, coordinator of the Chin Refugee Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “No one has been released- not even UNHCR card holders.” More than 10 Chin detainees are UNHCR-recognized refugees awaiting resettlement to a third country. If they are deported to the border, they are at risk of being sold to traffickers.
According to the report, any person involved in the trafficking of migrants and refugees may be subject to prosecution not only in Malaysia and Thailand but also in the U.S. under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Based on the report findings, the proposed recommendations of the Committee include:
* Investigation and prosecution of persons involved in the trafficking of Burmese and other refugees;
* Increased assistance to victims of human trafficking in Malaysia;
* Increased funding to local community leaders and political activists to combat the trafficking of persons from Malaysia into southern Thailand;
* Consideration of alternatives to detention for refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia;
* Free and unhindered access for UNHCR officials to all Malaysian facilities where Burmese persons and other asylum seekers are detained;
* Promotion of refugee protection standards in Malaysia.
The full findings and recommendations of the Senate committee report can be found online at:http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/index.html.
The Chin community represents one of the largest refugee communities from Burma living in Malaysia. For more than ten years, the Chin people have fled to Malaysia to escape persecution, torture, and severe oppression in Burma. In Malaysia they are the constant target of harassment, arrest, detention, and deportation by the Malaysian authorities. They are unable to work, receive an education, access healthcare services, or find acceptable living accommodations.