Thursday, June 30, 2011

Officials Cut Travel Expenses from Farmers' Loans

Manaung: Officials have allegedly taken a cut for transportation fees and daily expenses from the agricultural loans that were provided to farmers by the government in Manaung Township in southern Arakan State, Burma.

Farmers'--buffalo
The local farmers said officials from the government's agricultural bank and their escorting policies have forced them to pay for their travel expenses while issuing loans to them for paddy cultivation as they travel from village to village in the area.

"In our Kantaing Village group there are 119 farmers and no one wants to pay the officials for their personal expenses, but they told us that they have to spend from their own pockets for traveling and documentation to led loans to the farmers, and forced each of us to pay 1,500 kyat for taking a loan under the amount of 100,000 kyat and 2,000 kyat for loan amounts above 100,000 kyat," said one of the farmers.

He said the farmers are very poor and the loans are very necessary for the farmers. They did not dare to refuse to pay the officials' claims for payment out of fear they would not get loans for their cultivation.

He added that the escorting policies for the bank officials have also collected 1,000 kyat from each of the farmers for their loans.

"Besides the officials, their escorting policies have also forced us to pay 1,000 kyat each for their recreation for servicing on the travel for farmers' loans," he said.

A farmer from Sarchak Village in Manaung Township also confirmed that they faced the same cut from their loans.

"The manager of the local agricultural bank, U Khin Maung Yin himself is involved in this kind of collection of forced payments from farmers' loans distributed on our whole island of Manaung," said the farmer.

He said the group arrived in their Sarchak Village Group on 11 June, 2011, and issued loans to the farmers from the village administrator's house, and cut the same payments of 1,500 kyat and 2,000 kyat from the loans. In addition, they cut 500 kyat from each of the loans to offer robes to the monks on the first day of Buddhist Lent in the manager's office of the Agricultural Bank in the area.

He added that the bank has issued the loans to farmers at a rate of 20,000 kyat per acre of farmland, and the farmers who own the least farmland have suffered the most from the cuts from their loans.

There are 108 villages in 36 village groups in Manaung Township, and most of the residents are farmers.

A local educated youth said, "It is not just in the agricultural sector that the corruption and extortion of money from the public is going on, but it is also continuing in all departments in Burma and nothing has changed from the official norms under the former regime. The U Thein Sein regime should look into their departments and officials rather than shouting with its big mouth about 'Clean Government and Good Governance'."

Source: Narinjara

Bangladesh Army Chief Reveals Discussions with Burmese Counterparts

By Maung Aye

Dhaka: Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff General M Abdul Mubeen revealed his discussions with his Burmese counterparts on his recent visit to Burma on 23 to 27 May, according to reports in Bangladesh.

Army-chief-of-BD

Bangladesh president and Army chief M Abdul Mubeen

He revealed the topics of their discussions during a Tuesday meeting with Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman.

He informed the Bangladesh president that the Burmese government is particularly keep to take immediate steps to establish air connectivity with Bangladesh, construct connecting roads jointly, lease land to Bangladesh for agriculture, and take joint efforts to curb terrorism.

However, there were no reports on whether the army chief appraised the discussion of military ties between the two neighbor countries.

General Abdul Mubeen met with Lieutenant General Soe Win, the commander-in-chief of Burma's army, in Naypyidaw on 23 May, 2011, during a weeklong visit to Burma.

It was the second high-level meeting between top military officials of the two countries in two months. The first high-level meeting was initiated in April by Burma's Lt. General Myat Hein's visit to Bangladesh.

During the Burma air chief's six-day visit to Bangladesh, the two countries discussed not only military issues, but also other issues like road links and shipping links.

The Bangladesh president expressed his satisfaction over the outcome of the army chief's Burma visit, and said Bangladesh's bilateral relations with neighboring countries, especially Burma, need to be further strengthened.

Bangladesh authorities typically disclose that Burma has agreed to cooperate with Bangladesh in sectors such as road and shipping lines, in order to boost trade between the two countries, but the reality is they have been unable to implement any of the agreed upon projects in the last decade, say analysts.

Source: Narinjara

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Abbott MP Scott Morrison Met with Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia

Malaysia backdown on Abbott MP Scott Morrison

Geoff Chambers in Kuala Lumpur, The Daily Telegraph June 25, 2011 12:00AM
scott morrison

Banned ... Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison / Pic: AAP Source: AAP

MALAYSIAN officials backed down overnight and will now allow shadow immigration spokesman Scott Morrison to visit detention centres and meet key senior officials.



Mr Morrison got confirmation from the Malaysian home ministry last night, they will now meet him and he will also be able to visit the detention centre near KLIA Airport Meetings with Malaysian government officials will now take place late Monday afternoon.


It's understood Mr Morrison met with Royhinga refugees last night.


He arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning for a "first-hand look" at how illegal refugees are treated in Malaysia ahead of the Gillard government's plan for a refugee swap.


But his visit was at first not welcomed with the Malaysian government refusing to let him visit Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who had mocked Mr Morrison's visit.

Instead, the MP visited a local Chin community before meeting the Australian High Commission and refugee advocates.

Earlier, Mr Morrison had heard a boat of 65 asylum seekers and two crew were being taken to Christmas Island yesterday after they were intercepted off Australia's coast.


Those refugees will join the 275 detained and in limbo with no deal officially signed between PM Julia Gillard and Malaysia.

"The key point of this visit for me is to compare education, health and general living conditions for refugees in Malaysia compared with Nauru, where I have also visited," Mr Morrison said.

Travelling with two staffers, he hit back at government MPs who called his 6600km trip a "stunt". "People who have watched these refugee programs on television have told me to watch them. Well I've gone one step further and I've actually come to see for myself what is going on here," he said.

Refugees declined to show Mr Morrison their UNHCR identification cards which often do not stop them from being considered "illegal" by police and sent to prison.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Friday, June 24, 2011

The anguish of Sayed Kasim, A Prominant Human Rights, Refugee Rights and Pro-democracy Activist

Here in edited form is a letter composed on behalf of a Burmese man, named Sayed Kasim, to the Inspector General of ASIO and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen. Mr Kasim is a gentle, soft-spoken man whose quite demeanour betrays enormous grief and anxiety. His situation is one of the worst that we have seen, given that his family are literally dying whilst he languishes he detention:

My name is Sayed Kasim and I have been a detainee at the Immigration Detention Facilities within Australia for the last 18 months. I am a Rohingya refugee who fled my native country of Burma and went to Malaysia, where I lived for a period of 17 years, before fleeing to Australia in 2010. I have been registered as a refugee with the UNHCR for over 17 years and was granted refugee status by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship 12 months ago. I currently reside in Sydney’s Villawood Immigration and Detention Centre.

The reason I am writing this letter is to find out about the status of my security clearance and to ask if you can help me by speeding up the process. I have been waiting for my security clearance for the past twelve months and during that time my family, who are living in Malaysia, are experiencing extreme hardship and poverty. This is causing me great distress and anxiety.

Sayed Kasim in the Villawood Detention Centre, 2011

My story began in 1992, when the Burmese army seized me and took me to an army camp, where I was brutally tortured. They kicked me about the body and beat my legs with an iron rod. When I asked for water, I was made to drink urine. I escaped the army and fled into the surrounding jungle, where I met up with a friend who gave me the money to leave Burma.

I fled to Malaysia, where I lived for 17 years, between 1992 and 2010. There, in the city of Klang in the state of Selangor, I established educational classes for the children of Rohingya refugees. In my capacity as a religious teacher to refugees, I came to the attention of one of Malaysia’s largest government sponsored religious organizations, Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS). After I cooperated with a Malaysian Christian association, the JAIS accused me of proselatising Christianity within my school. I was brought before a council, who accused me of apostasy and threatened to behead me if I ever associated with a Christian group in the future. For a time, my life returned to normal, before an innocuous incident again brought me to the attention of JAIS. It occurred when some children from my school played football with students from a Christian school that had been founded with the support of the UNHCR. Later that night (3 October 2010) two masked men appeared at my house, accusing me of working for Christians. I fled from the scene, though the men insisted that if I did not turn myself in they would behead me.

Sayid Kasim (3rd from right in front of children) at his Muslim school for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia

I then relocated with my family to Selayang, where we went into hiding—though it was clear that I would not be safe for as long as we remained in Malaysia. My accusers called my mobile phone and continued to threaten my life. On two occasions I made formal complaints to the police, but this proved a futile course of action after the police threatened to arrest me if I did not desist from my appeals. (I have copies of the accepted police reports which detail my harassment and can show them as evidence if required to do so.) I subsequently went to the offices of the UNHCR, who could not guarantee my safety and advised that I flee to a distant part of Malaysia. I realized that I needed to find refuge in a safe country such as Australia.

In 2010, I fled Malaysia, leaving my wife and four children behind, who are without any legal protection. The oldest of my children is 8 and the youngest is 2 years of age. I originally left my wife and children at the home of a friend, though after a time they did not have enough money to feed themselves and often went for up to two days without food. Because of this our children are malnourished. Five months ago my wife was compelled to place my eight-year old son, Lokman Hakim, in the care of an orphanage in Kuala Lumpur. When I speak to him on the phone, he cries and asks to be taken back to his mother. I do not know what to say to him except that I am in a difficult situation and he needs to be patient, but this is taking a terrible emotional toll on all of us.

Recently, Juma Bibi, my wife, was sexually harassed by a man who is a relative of the friend with whom I left them, which caused me great distress. This person requested that she perform sexual favours for him in exchange for money, effectively pressuring her into a state of prostitution. When an advocate for Australia’s Refugee Action Coalition, Mark Goudkamp, spoke to Rohingya refugees on a recent visit to Malaysia, he met my wife, who was able to relate some of the difficulties that she and the children face. Yet whilst she was able to describe their poverty to Mr Goudkamp, she was unable to describe the sexual harassment she was experiencing because the man who wanted to buy and have sex with her was at the meeting—unbeknownst to the Australian representative who had arrived to listen to her story! Nonetheless, Mr Goudkamp is informed about many of the particulars concerning my family’s situation and I would urge you to contact him for any further information.

After the harassment took place, my wife and my remaining three children fled that house and were homeless for two days. She became so desperate that she decided to kill herself. She walked up to one of the area’s main highways, where she was preparing to throw herself into the traffic, when another refugee saw her and offered that she and the children could stay in her home for a time. However, this woman (whose name is Saburah) is in ill health and my family will not be able to stay with her for much longer. I worry that Saburah cannot afford to keep them and will claim that she is unable to rest and thus regain her health in the presence of crying children.

Juma Bibi and their 3 youngest children

I have made many attempts to seek assistance for my family from a number of refugee advocacy groups and human rights organizations but without the intervention that is necessary to alleviate their suffering. Because I cannot return to Malaysia to protect my family whilst I am in detention, I need answers about the status of my security clearance. If this process is not sped up, and for as long as my family are exposed to danger, I do not see how I can go on living as I am.

Sayed Kasim.

(The Refugee Art Project are organising to help Mr Kasim’s wife and children in Malaysia. If anyone wishes to make enquiries or give a financial donation, please email Safdar Ahmed at safdarnama@hotmail.com)

A letter from the roof of Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre

Atop the roof of Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC), Habib Habiburahman sits in protest. He has entered day five of a hunger strike in an attempt to raise awareness of his situation after having spent the past 18 months in indefinite detention as an asylum seeker.

When I met Habib in February, the late afternoon monsoonal rain of northern Australia teemed outside one of the Northern Territory’s ubiquitous demountable buildings within the NIDC compound.

Inside, Habib sat with his head bowed. Hair neatly slicked back, face clean shaven. Outside, lines of razor wire and palm trees were visible through the haze.

When I was 16, the Burmese government destroyed my family’s home,” so begins Habib’s story.

An ethnic Rohingyan, Habib was one of 14 in detention in Darwin. All had been granted refugee status, most in May 2010, yet they remained languishing in indefinite detention, awaiting the completion of ASIO security checks. Most had been in detention for more than a year.

The indefinite waiting and lack of information on their cases had begun to take a toll on the group’s mental health. Four of had attempted suicide. Last year one man tried to hang himself. Another set himself on fire. He was later told that he would be charged with destruction of Commonwealth property. Self-harm is common and most of the Rohingya intermittently refuse food or medical treatment.

Louise Newman, chair of the Detention Health Advisory Group for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University, said suicidal thinking can spread among detainees in such situations.

This is very concerning from a mental health perspective,” she said. “This type of condition can be contagious. I am very concerned there are people having suicidal thoughts.”

Professor Newman sees acts such as self-harm as the classic responses of people suffering from traumatic experiences and possessing no sense of control over their lives.

They’re isolated,” she said. “People feel abandoned and cut off. It reflects human distress when people feel confined and have no control over their lives.”

Habib described the assessment process as a Kafkaesque nightmare of bureaucratic procedure with no clear structure and ever-extended timeframes. “We are told all the time by the department that our cases are being processed,” he said. “But we witness other people released by Immigration. In some cases they have not been reviewed by ASIO.

The people that try to kill themselves feel they are against powerful government organisations. This is their way to resist.”

This year ASIO has come under increasing scrutiny for delays in processing security clearances for refugees. At a Senate Estimates committee in February, Immigration officials revealed there were 900 people across Australia found to be refugees but left in indefinite detention as they awaited the completion of ASIO checks. This represents 13% of the population in Australia’s overcrowded detention system.

Last year 811 complaints were lodged with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security for delays in the completion of security checks. In a letter to Habib the Inspector General, Dr Vivienne Thom, did little to offer guidance or assurance on the processes at work for those awaiting ASIO clearance.

ASIO has advised me that the complexity of security assessments can vary and this makes it difficult to provide exact timeframes for completion,” she wrote. “The best way for you to obtain information about the overall progress of your visa is to contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.”

Since then, the Department of Immigration has outlined a new ”triage method” in a letter to the Human Rights Commission — ASIO staff no longer directly carry out security checks for the bulk of asylum seekers, which are instead now delegated to immigration officers.

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald in late May, the Immigration Department says it will further speed up the new system to introduce a ”same-day service” for security checks.

But Habib expressed frustration at the indefinite waiting. “The Immigration case managers tell us they have no up-to-date information on our cases,” he protested. “We want to know what’s happening in the process or any problems our cases have. There are no groups in our country like al-Qaeda and no other armed groups so we can’t understand the delays.”

On February 2, the Rohingya were told they would have a chance to present their case to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen when he visited Darwin’s detention facilities.

Habib said he was among a group taken to a room and told to await the minister’s arrival.

In the afternoon we could see the minister leaving and were then told he was not allowed to meet with anyone,” he said. “We felt like it was a conspiracy and became angry. We ran out of the room and climbed to the roof of one of the buildings and began shouting. Finally a lady came to get the letter. She told us she was the assistant secretary for Minister Bowen.”

The letter read: “We understand the importance of people passing security clearances, however we do not understand why ASIO has taken so long to process our applications and are dismayed at the lack of information provided to us by the Department and ASIO regarding our security clearances.”

The Rohingya are stateless people. Human Rights Watch describes them as one of the most persecuted groups in Burma. “Even in Burma’s dreadful human rights landscape, the ill-treatment of the Rohingya stands out,” a 2009 report says. “Religious repression is widespread, with the military destroying many mosques … extrajudicial killings are common.”

There are no known Rohingyan terrorist groups.

After being beaten and tortured and by Burmese authorities in Rangoon, Habib trekked across the country and escaped into Thailand in 2000. From there he travelled to Malaysia where he spent 10 years. While able to work as an electrician, he lived with the constant fear of deportation. Malaysia is not a signatory to international refugee conventions and people fleeing to the country face abuse at the hands of immigration officials and the notorious vigilante groups.

I was deported from Malaysia four times,” he said. “Each time we were captured we would be beaten and taken to the Thai border. There we were sold to people smugglers who would demand money from us and then take us back into Malaysia.”

On one occasion Habib was unable to pay Thai people smugglers and he was sold into slavery aboard a Thai fishing boat. He spent two months aboard the ship before escaping.

In December 2009, Habib undertook the dangerous sea journey from Indonesia to Australia.

It was five days at sea,” he says. “The engines broke down and we had to steer the boat as the driver was only a teenager. We thought we would die. When we saw the patrol aircraft we cried with happiness and waved our clothes at it.”

Despite his experiences Habib is determined not to let his current circumstances break him.

I do not want to attempt suicide or cut myself,” he states. “My way is different. I don’t want to be a victim and I will struggle to reveal the reality of our lives. For me that is more important now than the visa.”

Habib said he would like to see a judicial review of the processes of mandatory detention. Professor Newman agrees that mandatory detention is a failed policy and called on Minister Bowen to treat a review of the policy as a priority.

We need to radically rethink the policies of detention,” she said. “The majority of people’s claims can be processed in the community. Other countries that function with community detention systems don’t have the rates of mental health problems we see as people can live with a sense of purpose.”

Habib agrees. Describing the case of a fellow Rohingyan now in community detention, his face lit up.

This man tried to hang himself last year,” he told me. “Finally he is in community detention and he is very happy and healthy. If we were in community detention we could wait 10 years for our security check.”

Source: Crickey

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Refugees: UN convention fails to protect displaced people

2011/06/22
By ZAFAR AHMAD ABDUL GHANI, President Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organisation Malaysia Kuala Lumpur (letters@nst.com.my)

JUNE 20 was World Refugee Day. The Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merh-rom) regrets that there is no change in our condition over the years.

June 20 also marked the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention. We must analyse whether this convention has done enough to protect refugees.

Every year, we see wars and conflicts across the world. This is worrying as more people flee their countries and become refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and displaced persons. While many have found new homes after resettlement to third countries, many more are struggling for survival.


There are too few countries involved in the resettlement of refugees compared with the number of refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and displaced persons born each day.

United Nations agencies, especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), parties to the Refugee Convention and world leaders must adopt new strategies to deal with refugee issues.

The condition of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Malaysia is a classic example of how the failure of UN agencies and world leaders has destroyed generations. There is no future for them.


In Southeast Asia, most refugees and asylum seekers come from Myanmar because of persecution and prosecution by the junta.

Asean leaders must deal with the junta to stop the flood of Myanmar refugees to neighbouring countries.

Being a refugee is hard, especially as some transit countries have not signed the Refugee Convention that provides protection for them. What this means is that in most situations, refugees are not recognised and protected.


While UN agencies protect refugees around the world, more effort must be made to stop wars and conflicts, which cause people to become refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and displaced persons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Refugee Arrests Undermine Recent Progress












In this photo taken on Feb. 16, 2011, Rohingya boat people wait for medical treatment after being rescued, at a port in Aceh Besar, Aceh province, Indonesia. (Photo: AP)

BANGKOK - on June 7, the day after 96 Pakistani Ahmadiyah refugees and asylum seekers were freed on bail in what was hailed as a landmark new departure in Thailand's dealings with refugees, six other Pakistani asylum seekers and one refugee were arrested in Pathum Thani, north of Bangkok.




The seven were sent to Bangkok's Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), site of the high-profile June 6 release, says the UN refugee agency (UNCHR). "We are deeply concerned about these arrests that just increase the sense of insecurity that refugees and asylum seekers already feel", said Jean-Noƫl Wetterwald, UNHCR regional representative and coordinator for Southeast Asia.




The June 7 arrests were followed up on June 9 with the arrest of nine more Ahmadiyah asylum-seekers in Ayutthuya, with still more Ahmadiyah detained on June 15. The new arrests include children under five years old, as well as a number of Sri Lankan nationals. The Ahmadiyah are members of a minority Islamic group that is oppressed in Pakistan, where they are not recognized as Muslims and are often victims of sectarian violence.




Speaking on Monday evening at Bangkok's Foreign Correspondent's Club, Thailand National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara described possible human rights violations at the IDC, such as detention conditions he depicted as crowded and unhealthy. One year ago today, Thailand assumed the Presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.




Thailand has long been a destination for refugees fleeing oppression in south and southeastern Asia, and currently around 140,000 Burmese refugees are in Thailand, mostly in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border. Monday, June 20, was World Refugee Day, with Burma cited as the world's fifth-highest source of refugees with 415,700 worldwide, around 200,000 of which are Rohingya.




The Rohingya are a Muslim people numbering around one million, mostly living in northern Arakan State in western Burma. They are denied Burmese citizenship and have long been persecuted. According to Refugees International, state and army land seizures, forced labor, arbitrary arrests and extortion of Rohngya are common.


More than 40 Rohngya are detained in Suan Plu IDC, which sits close to the main banking and finance district in Bangkok. Others are held elsewhere in Thailand, some of whom have languished inside detention centers for more than two years, although negotiations are taking place between refugee rights groups and the Thai authorities for the release of the Rohingya detainees.




In early 2009, allegations that the Thai army abandoned nearly 1,000 Rohingya at sea caused international anger, prompting then newly-installed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva to say he would investigate the claims. A diplomatic cable sent from the US Embassy in Bangkok, which was released early on Tuesday, outlined that prior to March 2009, the US sought to influence Thailand's 'pushback' of Rohingya trying to enter Thailand by sea.




The American representatives, including then-Ambassador to Thailand Eric John, said they raised the issue with Thai officials and lawmakers, including PM Abhisit, resulting in what the Americans perceived to be a temporary respite in Thailand's maritime pushbacks. The cable acknowledged the role played by media coverage, including that of The Irrawaddy, in pressuring the Thai authorities to relax the pushbacks.




After the advocacy push and media coverage, the next group of Rohingya arrivals to Thailand's shores were well-treated, according to the US account. However, the Thai authorities cited their concerns that the granting of full refugee status to a party of 78 Rohingya being held at Ranong would prompt more refugees to come to Thailand in the hope of acquiring the same status and possible eventual third-country resettlement to a Western nation.




The cable mentioned US efforts to address the 'root causes' of the Rohingya problem, namely the human rights situation in Burma and Arakan State specifically. The US said it wanted Burma's fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pressure Burma into improving conditions in Rohingya-populated regions of Burma, measures that some analysts believe would reduce the numbers of Rohingya seeking refuge abroad.




On June 9, US Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Eric P Schwartz reiterated the American position that "the solution to the Rohingya issue lies in Burma." However, it is not clear that the US can convince Burma's neighbors that Burmese Government policy toward Rohingya is the cause of their flight to Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia .





By SIMON ROUGHNEEN Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Burma a top source country for Refugees

By FRANCIS WADE ,Published: 20 June 2011
Burma a top source country for refugees thumbnail
A Karen man carriess his mother through the Thai town of Mae Sot in November 2010. Up to 20,000 refugees fled fighting in Karen state (Reuters)

Burma produces the world's fifth highest number of refugees, above that of both war-torn Sudan and Colombia, according to a UN report released today to mark World Refugee Day.
It emphasised that developing countries are the ones who are shouldering the burden of those fleeing violence and persecution, a concern that will ring true for the hundreds of thousands who have escaped Burma to neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh.

The report found that 415,700 registered refugees hail from Burma, which places it in the top five of global source countries, and the highest in East Asia. The top country, Afghanistan, has produced more than three million refugees.

State-sanctioned persecution against the Muslim Rohingya minority group in western Burma has led to hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. Only 28,000 of these are registered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which says another 200,000 live in squalid, unofficial refugee camps. Other estimates have put the figure close to 400,000.

Kitty McKinsey, Asia-Pacific spokesperson for the UNHCR, which released the annual Global Trends 2010 report today, told
DVB that the Bangladeshi government has "not permitted" the agency to register the vast majority of Rohingya, who hail from western Burma's Arakan state.

Those who are unregistered and who live outside of the two official UN-run camps lead a "precarious existence", McKinsey said, where they cannot access education and healthcare and have no official identity. Aid group Medicins Sans Frontiers have said previously that the Rohingya are subject to a "chronic humanitarian crises".

The report also said that Thailand was sheltering 96,675 refugees in nine camps along the border with Burma. Sally Thompson, deputy director of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), said however that this figure does not account for the 50,000 or so who have arrived from Burma since the last official registration in 2005.

TBBC puts the figure living in camps at 143,000, nearly 80 percent of whom are from war-torn Karen state, where the insurgent Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has been battling the Burmese government for more than 60 years. Thompson said however that the UNHCR's figures do not tell the whole story.

"Outside of the camp we believe that many of the people who are in the migrant work force would have same claims as the people in refugee camps", she told
DVB. Around three million Burmese in total are estimated to be living in Thailand.

TBBC also believes there are around 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in rural eastern Burma alone, many of whom have fled their villages and live in makeshift homes in the jungle.

The UN report said that 797,388 stateless people were living within Burma's borders out of a total population "of concern" of 859,403. McKinsey said the stateless figure referred to those in northern Arakan state where the Rohingya hail from.

Gains have also been made in the past year: close to 20,000 refugees from Burma have now been resettled by the UNHCR, more than any other population documented in the report. Additionally, Japan's first ever intake of resettled refugees last year were from Karen state.

Statement on the World Refugee Day 2011: Squalid Condition of the Rohingya Burmese Refugees in the World

20 June 2011

 

Press Release

 

Statement on the World Refugee Day 2011:

Squalid Condition of the Rohingya Burmese Refugees in the World

 

We, National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) (exile)-Headquarters based in the United States of America and the South East Asia Regional Office in Malaysia, would like to express our concern over Burma's regime's installation of the worst proportion of inhuman pogrom against ethnic minorities in Burma. Particularly of the Rohingyas in western border of Burma through  out the forced labour, force eviction, forced extortion, forced extermination, forced relocation, torture, extra judicial killings, rape, model village settlement,  restriction on their movement and freedom of worship, education, social and business development Rohingya refugees which make continuous flow of refugees. Hence the Rohingya Burmese refugees are languishing under the traumatic mistreatments around the world specifically in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Suadi Arabia.

 

As Rohingya refugees are Burma's first refugees and defined as the world most oppressed group, the plights received international attention and UNHCR's supports thereupon global leaders have yet to pave solution for the plights.


In Bangladesh, the situation is cramp and the government restricts aid of Rohingya. About 28,000 Rohingya Burmese refugees are in squalid at the UNHCR runs camps of Kutupalong and Nayapara in southern district of Cox's Bazar, have been there for three decades, and about 30,000 Rohingyas in unregistered camp are for years. While no one know how the rest about 250,000 Rohingyas in outside refugee camps are surviving. The UNHCR has resettled less than thousand Rohingyas from the registered camps since the year 2006. The enormous problems in Bangladesh are direct impacts on vulnerable Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Despite having well knowledge of the world on repatriated refugees, UNHCR and Bangladeshi government have still uphold to establish agreement with Burma for involuntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees. We would like to call upon Bangladesh itself depends on funds, should not ban international aid of the other and to respect non-refoulement and customary laws. 


The expression of majority willing to repatriate by UNHCR in Aug 1994 was flawed after MSF survey in March 1995 revealed that 63% did not want to repatriate. Therefore we deeply concern for processing of repatriation of Rohingya refugees which advantages on their malnutrition or starvation, stuck, with other stimulation by offers.

 

In Thailand, recent repeated mistreatments towards Rohingya boat people show Thai-authorities barbarous commitment of genocide crimes against humanity and defiance against international communities and international laws. Thai army and Internal Security Operation Command-ISOC are responsible for misconception of the Rohingya as threat to Thai national security.

 

That lead in March 2008, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej attempted to explore a deserted island to place Rohingya refugees living in Thailand, Bankok Post Paper on 28 March 2008. 

 

Again in Dec 2008, total about 1116 Rohingya and some Bangladeshi boat people were towed into international waters and more than half were feared dead including firing, some were shot dead on boat and some were thrown over boat to drown.

 

Current PM Abhisit Vejjajiva had promise to hold all those involved to account. Instead of investigation to bring into account or compensation for those lost of lives, Thai PM is still upheld its authorities to treat rank-less behaviour towards vulnerable boat people.

 

Again in Jan 2011, three boats of Rohingya refugees landed over the weekend of January in Southern Thai-waters, were similarly pushed back into international waters. A group 91 persons rescued near India-Andaman Island  and another group 129 persons rescued near Indo-Acheh.

 

We therefore would like to urge international community to take action on Thai-authority and PM for pursuing similar crimes.

 

In Saudi Arabia, Rohingyas been there for five decades and still facing arrests, detentions and forceful deportations, and exempt from basic rights. They are living mostly in Makkah, Jeddah and Madina in poor conditions. Even though Former King Abdullah had showed a little favour towards their plights, detention of Rohingyas is slightly increased from 5,000 persons estimated in 2008 Oct who were nab from Mecca and Jeddah. Those detainees were forced to accept to say Bangladeshi and several hundreds were deported to Bangladesh in this manner. They are kept without adequate foods and equipments in dilapidated buildings by guarding due to overcrowding in prisons and failure of deportation.

 

Most of them are in inhuman situation and suffering from types of diseases, shortage of food and in non hygienic and squalid environment. Half of those detained in dilapidated building had been escaped. This kind of treatments are totally unexpectable in Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia therefore we would like to call Saudi Arabia to show humanity towards its Muslim brothers and at least they must be protected under Islamic universal Laws.

 

In Malaysia Rohingyas is the first among Burmese refugee groups. Rohingya refugees in Malaysia have been languishing more than two decades in limbo with lack of basic needs. Malaysia is not a signatory country therefore Rohingya refugees are still subject to arrest, detention and other abuses. Current UNHCR representative has yet to explore assistance of widow, over aged and sick Rohingyas, Rohingya families whose husband are kept in Australian detentions, registration of unregistered Rohingyas whose data were collected since the mid-2009, fair and equal opportunity in resettlement quota. Because there are less than 250 Rohingyas found in UNHCR resettlement, about 43,000 refugees from Malaysia in the past decade. Compare to the past years UNHCR has able to get release of refugee detainees from some detentions. But it does not mean they are protected. There are still swapped in raids and hundreds of unreported numbers are still languished and detained in dehumanized conditions where UNHCR service not explore or access. The Malaysian government is also still silent on Home Minister said in Feb 2010 that the refugees to be allowed to work was being considered while waiting to be resettled in third countries. We would like to call Malaysian government to corporate to find permanent solution for the plights of Rohingyas refugees in Malaysia and to upgrade its detention system. 

 

Repressions of oppressed Rohingya refugees in host countries became one of the issues why Rohingya refugees in neighboring countries are busy to find a safe place through risky journey. We see secondary movements of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Malaysia and Rohingya refugees in Malaysia departing for Australia because they expect to find more secure and safe place. From the year 2006, we escalated that total Rohingyans landed to Australia from Malaysia are; 8 Rohingyans by a boat in Aug 2006, 42 Rohingyans by four different boats in between September to Dec 2009, 98 Rohingyans and 8 different ethnic Burmeses by six different boats in between March to October 2010 and recently 18 Rohingyans landed near Ashmore Reef by a boat on 12 May 2011. This last group was told that they would be transferred to where they came from and they are kept separately for final decision near North West Point Immigration Detention Centre of Christmas Island. One of the key reasons of their arrival was after the talk of swap deal. We urge Malaysian government not to accept this 18 Rohingya men as Malaysia is not in position to fulfill their basic needs and Malaysia has yet to settle existing Rohingya cases.

 

108 Rohingyans landed by a boat in Pulau Kendi, off Penang on 4 March 2007, were detained in Juru detention camps and half of them were deported to Burma border through voluntary corporation with Thai. The rest were langusihed for fear of repatriation so that they were finally handed over to human traffickers in Malays-Thai border.

 

A few of trafficked in fishing boat were landed in Terenganu beach in Oct 2007 after broke down the engine. They were detained in Ajil detention camp and some accessed UNHCR's intervention.

 

93 Rohingyans landed by a boat in Kedah in Mrch 2010 after received aid from Thai. They were detained prolong then finally some got UNHCR's intervention.

 

Some of those Thai pushed back Rohingya boat people in Indonesia captured in  Malay-waters in March 2010, were detained prolong and a few were met UNHCR assessment.

 

We also found that Rohingya boat people asylum-seekers in Australian detentions are being the longest group and treated unequally in visa processing and then detained inappropriately by advantaging on security checks despite Australia has well understanding about Rohingya position and Australia itself is one of the country which advocate for their plights and contributed for the welfare of Rohingyas both in home and exile. Such prolong detention contracts psychological torture and affects mental and then that bruise their families left behind. On the consequences of pressure so far 32 of 42 Rohingya refugees arrival in 2009 were released after averagely detained 13 months, the rest six persons in Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC), 3 persons in Villawood and one person in Maribyrnong detentions are still languishing in limbo. Including two of them; Mr Habiburahman is head and Mr Sayad Kasim is Joint Secretary of NDPHR (exile) South East Asia Regional Office based in KL, Malaysia, have been detaining now in 18 months in NIDC. Their lives in Malaysia were risked and they both had been personally experienced with arrests, detentions and deportation to human traffickers in Malay-Thai border. 

 

We acknowledged their detention is worst than mandatory detention as mandatory detention has a mandate with key values which ensure fair and humane treatment. The period of their detention excessive length of proper process while thousands of clients who arrived lately and faking Rohingya cases were already released. Unfortunately, such indefinite detention doesn't import the way to have good conduct and good order in Australian society. They proved their identities received UNHCR-Malaysia but their cases are still hanging for puppet security checks regardless of government notice released on 17 March 2011. There is no Rohingya threat to Burmese society or other country. Rohingya community in Burma have been terrorized at least five decades by terror military government. Moreover, they are bounded in the cycle of arrests, detentions, deportations and other brutal abuses in neighbouring countries. Therefore, their detention is nothing more than arbitrary detention of innocent refugees.

 

We concerns seriously for prolong detention of the world most oppressed Rohingya refugee asylum-seekers detained in Australia and Australia as a leader in humanitarian fields and that uplift international laws, should not detained inappropriately, nor materialize the swap deal to send back Rohingya refugee boat people asylum-seekers to the country where is not safe for refugees and asylum-seekers even for legal migrants. Despite boat people issue in Australia brought to a hot debate by politicians, their rights in Australian territory should not be deprived for political interaction. This is nothing more than degrading of Australia's human rights record and letting to mess-up the situation.

 

In summary we also would like to call international communities to encourage UNSC to take action unexceptionally on military regime. Burma's neighbouring countries or its associations does not import security and safety of the Burmese people therefore there is nothing to rely on them.

 

 

Thank you,

 

 

Executive Committee

National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR), exile

Headquarters, United States of America

 

For media contact:

Kyaw Soe Aung           Te: +14147364273


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Australia seeks UN agency nod to seal Malaysia refugee swap

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Australia has quietly sent a delegation to win critical support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over its controversial plan to swap refugees with Malaysia, Melbourne’s The Age reported today.

The newspaper reported that Canberra’s planned refugee swap deal with Putrajaya has run into “a potentially serious snag, with the United Nations refugee agency failing to give its immediate blessing”.

“UNHCR endorsement of the so-called ‘Malaysia solution’ will be critical for the government to secure backbench support and to counter suggestions that the deal will abrogate Australia’s human rights and child protection responsibilities,” the newspaper said today.

Malaysia is not a signatory to UN refugee covenant but UNHCR offices in Canberra and Kuala Lumpur have signalled their readiness to endorse a deal on the grounds “it would improve protection for refugees in Malaysia and provide a basis for regional co-operation”, the paper added.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has also assured Labor’s Left that the UNHCR is on board, and had been expected to announce a deal this week, the paper said.

“But it is understood that the UNHCR’s Geneva head office is being extra cautious about the deal. It wants guarantees, for example, that none of the asylum seekers will be returned to their countries of origin against their will.

“An informed source said ‘purists’ in Geneva were taking extra time before giving UNHCR endorsement. Malaysian officials had also been dispatched to Geneva to promote the final memorandum of understanding,” the newspaper reported.

Australia is expected to fund an expanded presence for the UNHCR in Malaysia as a sweetener.
The Age said it was made to understand that UNHCR officials from Geneva will fly to Malaysia in coming days for briefings with authorities to assist their decision-making.

‘‘Discussions around the proposed [deal] raise important principles of refugee protection that need to be carefully assessed,’’ a spokesman for the UNHCR Canberra representative, Richard Towle, said. ‘‘UNHCR remains actively involved in those discussions.’’

The newspaper reported that the fact that the deal commits Australia to taking 4,000 refugees from Malaysia in exchange for the transfer to Malaysia of 800 asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australian waters is seen as a positive by some UNHCR officials as it raises Australia’s overall intake of refugees.

Under the deal, the asylum seekers sent from Australia to Kuala Lumpur will spend an initial period in a processing centre undergoing health and identity checks.

They will then be issued UNHCR cards that confirm they are not illegal immigrants and will live in the community as they wait years for UNHCR processing.

Both countries have not publicly said who the refugees are under the swap deal but The Malaysian Insider understands it could include Iranians, who have been hitting headlines of late on suspicion of being drug mules in Malaysia.

It is expected the deal will see Australia provide funding to the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration to cover the health and education costs of the group, as well as covering all Malaysian government’s costs.

As a sweetener, Australia is expected to fund an expanded presence for the UNHCR in Malaysia, where the agency struggles to assist and monitor at least 90,000 refugees.

An Australian source played down the Geneva meeting, saying it was inevitable that face-to-face talks at the UNHCR headquarters would be needed to finalise operational details, the daily said.

UNHCR officials had been briefed on the deal from the outset and had always offered qualified support, a source told The Age.


Source: The Malaysian Insider

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Immigration Minister loses to APP activists

Report from Nick Folkes

Time and time again Chris Bowen has proven to be a disappointment to the Australian public due to his utter incompetence, vacuous positions and constant charades. This is the same minister who put together FuelWatch and GroceryChoice with dethroned Kevin Rudd. Unfortunately for the people of Australia, Bowen now oversees the portfolio of Immigration and Citizenship with dire consequences.

While listening to 2GB radio on Friday 13th May a couple of irate Fairfield residents alerted listeners to Chris Bowen’s Sunday BBQ at South-Western Regional Park. The 2GB callers complained about Chris Bowen and his poor performance handling the asylum shopper explosion that has seen Australia accept record numbers of illegal boatpeople due to a lack of legislation and enforcement. Chris would have to be one of the clumsiest frontbenchers known to the public, with a sad record to prove his uselessness. In all honestly, Chris Bowen is as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.

In the previous weeks, Chris Bowen’s office had circulated a flyer promoting the Sunday BBQ to Fairfield residents. The flyer encouraged residents in the local area to come along, ask questions and dine on taxpayer-funded sausage sandwiches.

After hearing about the feel-good lefty sausage fest over the radio, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to personally meet Bowen in the park and ask some tough questions. The “genius” multicultural proponent was in our sights. A group of Protectionist members and supporters agreed to come along and confront Bowen in the park.

Bowen and his staffers were clearly rattled when they saw us approach and make the long march to the hotplates. One of his staffers in charge of the BBQ was shaking and visibly upset that their warm and fuzzy halal certified BBQ was about to go mainstream.

Listening to Bowen from a short distance we could ascertain that the invited McMahon electors weren’t asking Bowen any serious questions on the asylum seeker crisis which has been destroying Australia’s once-envied border protection. I introduced myself to Bowen and shook his hand. I asked if it was fine to ask some questions, to which he agreed.

However, it was soon abundantly clear that Bowen was out of his depth dealing with this most important portfolio, as his answers dictated a man in distress. As soon as we started asking serious questions, many of the other attendees followed our example. Heated, yet amicable, conversation continued for 30 minutes until Chris decided he couldn’t bear any more humiliation at the hands of grassroots political activists. He rudely interrupted and said, “You have had your fun, now please leave me alone”.

We left Chris in a cloud of burnt sausages and travelled down to the park bridge. Chris would have to cross the bridge to gain access to his car so we decided to set up our protest on the bridge and make sure Bowen the Troll didn’t slip under the bridge. We held our placards and Aussie flags proudly to give him one more final hurrah. We lined the bridge and gave him a salute to remember. Chris was again undoubtedly one sorry and confused individual as he raced past us over the bridge to his car and escaped from the clutches of realism and the viewpoints of everyday Australians.

There is no doubt Bowen has his greasy fingers all over the recently announced half-baked Malaysian solution. This is yet another example of a government making policy on the run. It is clear Bowen and Gillard are at the helm of a sinking ship with no rudder. The recalcitrant Malaysians must be rubbing their hands in glee at such a preferential deal whereby Australia deports 800 illegal boatpeople and accepts 4,000 asylum shoppers in return. Most of the 4,000 asylum shoppers who will be resettled in Australia (“the land of the big Centrelink hand-outs”) are Rohingya Burmese, an ethnic Muslim minority from Burma and Bangladesh. Again, the hapless Australian taxpayer will foot a bill in excess of $330 million. What a spectacular waste of our money.

Gillard believes this is the first step in creating a regional solution to the issue. This is the same galoot who wouldn’t reopen the Nauru Island detention facility because Nauru isn’t a signatory to the UN refugee convention. Gillard and Bowen have now opened the door to Malaysia and possibly Thailand, both whom are not signatories to the UN convention, to possible offshore processing. The boat people keep arriving, yet Bowen could not say where the illegal asylum shoppers would be sent, because the Labor-Green coalition government has signed no bilateral arrangement with Malaysia, PNG, East Timor or anywhere else. This is a panicked announcement from a government in despair.

It is not very often you get the French, Germans and British to agree, but they did a few months ago by declaring multiculturalism a failure. Bowen has decided to ignore the warnings coming out of the Europe in regard to the complete failure of a liberal utopian fairytale called multiculturalism. Bowen believes Australian multiculturalism is different to European multiculturalism, but failed to elaborate.

Bowen said, “multiculturalism is about mutual respect”. Mutual respect has nothing to do with multicultural policy. State-sanctioned multiculturalism not only divides society, but it also deceives us when as it places Third World and barbaric cultures on equal par with our better developed Australia culture, which is derived from Western civilisation. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein is “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. I don’t think any sane citizen could challenge that definition, except for the useful idiot Bowen.

Last Australia Day, Bowen said “The Australian flag should not be changed as the vast majority of Australians support the current design”. Well, the vast majority of Australians also support tougher border protection policies through legislation.

The forgotten people of Australia deserve better than a Minister who lives in a perpetual world of spin, mismanagement and deceit.


Source: Nicholas Hunter Folk er

Friday, June 10, 2011

US to help assist Rohingya refugees

Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz Thursday said USA will continue its possible support to the Bangladesh government to assist Rohingya refugees until a permanent solution to the longstanding problem is found, reports UNB.

"The solution to this refugee challenge lies in Burma. Voluntary return of Rohingya in large numbers will only be possible when the basic rights of these people are safeguarded, and -sadly - that is not today the case," Schwartz told a press conference at the American Centre.

He said until such changes take place in Burma the US will continue to do what they can to assist the government and the people of Bangladesh.

Replying to a question Schwartz said political reform and democratization in respect of human rights in Burma are important objective not only for USA but also for the international community.

He said recently US senior official visited Burma to have discussion with senior officials about democratization in respect to human rights.

Schwartz said he did not go to Myanmar on this visit but hoped that he and other officials of the department will visit the area from where

Rohingyas come and promote efforts for social and economic development in the Southwestern part of Burma.

He said humanitarian problems don't have humanitarian solution but those have political solution and the political solution is not in 'our side yet'

The US assistant secretary said until political solution all should try to continue to provide assistance to the victims of repression and prosecution as the Roghigya did nothing wrong.

Schwartz said he had been in Bangladesh for the last three days to explore issues surrounding Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the region.

On Tuesday he traveled to Cox's Bazar and visited the Kutupalong camp and surrounding areas hosting Rohingya refugees and met with camp officials and officials adjoining areas, members of the local community and representatives of international and non-governmental organizations.

He said he also had opportunity to speak with a number of refugees and to learn of the significant challenges they confront.

Schwartz appreciated the Bangladesh government and its people for hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled persecution in southwestern Burma where the regime systemically denies the human rights and human freedom of the Rohingyas.

He said the US has supported the refugee program in Bangladesh since 1991.
In 2010 US provided over 23 million US dollar to regional appeals of the UNHCR and ICRC as well as 1.28 million US dollar to NGOs assisting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

He said the US is eager to continue and augment its support to the humanitarian efforts of the government and look forward to consulting closely with Bangladesh officials in the future.


Source: The News Today