PETALING JAYA: Amnesty International Malaysia has urged Putrajaya to look at Rohingya refugees as a source of labour to address the shortage it claims the country is facing.
Its executive director, Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, said a wise government would weigh this option against the need to bring in more foreign workers.
“We should be looking at the Rohingya as a work source,” she told FMT. “They are already here. We already have them. Allow them to work.”
Shamini called for a change of mindsets so that the public would begin to see refugees as part of the Malaysian community.
“We need to start looking at them as people who can help our country grow, not as people who are here to steal our jobs. They are here because they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
She commended the government for recent efforts to initiate support for the Rohingya community but said more could be done not only for the Rohingya but for other refugees as well.
“What Malaysia seems to be doing with the Rohingya here is a plus point for the country in the eyes of the global community,” she said. “What Amnesty is asking is for Malaysia to consider accepting more of the refugee population, wherever they come from. We have a lot of refugees here.”
Earlier this week, OIC Special Envoy to Myanmar Syed Hamid Albar said a proper registration system would make it easier for the Rohingya community to get jobs.
The former foreign minister said it was not good enough to rely on cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Shamini, however, said any new suggestion to register refugees needed to be looked at carefully.
“First, what is the aim of the registration? Second, since UNHCR deals with registration, there is already a system in place.
“Any talk of the registration of the Rohingya community needs to be done in consultation with those who are dealing with the community on the ground, including UNHCR.”
Klang MP Charles Santiago agreed that the presence of refugees in the country provided the government with a reason to stop taking in migrant workers.
He cautioned, however, that registering the Rohingya already here could influence others to flock to the country.
“The government has the option to stop it or allow them in as refugees and turn them into productive members of society,” he told FMT. “In this way, Malaysia can reduce the intake of documented migrant workers.”
He said Malaysia could lose out when refugees find placement in third countries because there could be skilled workers and professionals among them.
“Refugees can bring in a variety of skills into the country,” he said. “There could even be scientists among them. But if they remain as refugees, they will leave the country once they find placement in a third country.”