Malaysia a ‘living hell’ for refugees, says report

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Source: Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia cannot be considered a haven for refugees despite the government’s recent pledge to take in thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria, a US-based news portal reports.

In fact, Malaysia is a “living hell” for refugees, according to the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI).

“Based on my experience, I don’t think and I will never think that Malaysia is a good place for refugees,” MSRI counsellor Ronald Sutedja was quoted as saying by News Deeply.

Among the concerns raised in the report were the government’s continued refusal to recognise the United Nations convention on refugees, as well as legal hurdles for refugees to get jobs and education.

The report also cited the case of a 14-year-old Iraqi boy, Hassan Siham Samawi Nukhailwi, who faced harassment from his schoolmates who called him a terrorist and accused him of creating problems in the country.

“I like Malaysia, but some Malaysians are not good to me,” he was quoted as saying.

Twelve-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed, meanwhile, was eager to continue his education which had been interrupted by the unrest in Aleppo.

However, he was forced to drop out of his NGO-run school after his father fell ill and had to stop working.

The responsibility of supporting his family fell on him and his older brother, who worked 12-hour shifts washing dishes at a university restaurant for RM20 per day.

According to the report, there are some 152,400 refugees living in the country.

The unregistered refugee population is estimated to range from 40,000 to more than 100,000.

The report said the majority of refugees come from Myanmar, including some 66,000 Rohingya. This is followed by Pakistanis, Yemenis and Syrians.

The wait to register as refugees could take years as the large number of refugees coming from Myanmar, with 56,300 asylum claims pending at the end of 2016, has hampered the process.

In terms of education, the UNHCR supports a “parallel school system” run mostly by faith-based and charitable groups.

However, the report said certification is rarely provided and few children are able to continue to secondary school.

UNHCR estimates that only around 30% of refugee children in Malaysia actually go to school.