An Increase of 14-fold Refugee Population for the past 10-year provokes government’s stereotype



An Increase of 14-fold Refugee Population for the past 10-year provokes government’s stereotype

Today, in commemoration of the World Refugee Day, SUARAM and Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) strongly urge the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol to promote, respect and provide coherence protection framework that upholds their principle human rights and dignity in the country.

In light with the alarming global trend of forced displacement[1], In Malaysia, statistics as of April 2013 recorded by UNHCR has shown an increase of almost 14-fold (or 1390%) from 5, 311 refugees and asylum seekers registered in year 2003 to 103,010 people (2013).[2] Meanwhile, Myanmar origin remains the largest proportion of recognized refugees and asylum seekers with share of 92% (absolute number 94, 760) from the total numbers.

It is stated that despite Malaysia’s reluctance to ratify 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the number of vulnerable people seeking sanctuary in the country escalated overtime. This also provokes government’s stereotype over the implication of having ratify the convention will encourage the new influx of refugees. Such argument is highly irresponsible for a country that have strong role on United Nations Human Rights Council hence shall not be an ultimate determinant factor for government’s continuous refusal to such instruments.

Countries around the world have taken more progressive position using regional solidarity and burden sharing with multi party arrangement with United Nations and the humanitarian and rights base agencies to manage the influx. We strongly state that refugee and asylum seeker phenomena is not a country concern but it’s an important regional and international phenomena that impose an obligation on nations states.

Refugees and asylum seekers are classified as illegal immigrants by the Immigration Act 1959/63 and can be arrested, detained and sentenced, which usually involves judicial caning by the authorities. Discrimination, Intimidation and threats of violence against refugees and asylum seekers continue unabated in some pockets of our communities. This can been seen in the latest act by government, where the Malaysian government has sternly warned Myanmar communities in Kuala Lumpur that they could face deportation back to Myanmar in the wake of recent violence between some Myanmar communities in Kuala Lumpur.

SUARAM and LFL also urge the Malaysian government to halt all form of arbitrary deportation of Myanmar refugees especially those from the Rohingya community as they are refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. SUARAM and LFL want to make it clear that such force deportation is wrong and unacceptable in a constitutional democracy as well as a violation of international customary laws.

We call upon the Malaysian government, as well as other governments across the world, to re-affirm the values upon which international agreements of refugee protection are based. It is also a time for all sectors of society to reflect on their role, to examine, form and strengthen partnerships on how best to find lasting solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.

Eric Paulsen

Co-founder & Adviser

of LFL


Death of Krishnanantham – An Asylum Seeker from Sri Lanka

Press Statement: 5th  March 2013

Death of Krishnanantham – An Asylum Seeker from Sri Lanka


On 1/3/2013, Jesumalar, a Sri Lankan, received a phone call from the Immigration Department that her husband Krishnanantham had died at about 2:00AM on 28/2/2013 at Seremban Hospital. Krishnanantham was earlier detained in Lenggeng Detention Center on 28/9/2012 for not having legal documents.


The deceased was admitted to Seremban hospital on 27/2/2013 and died at about 2:00AM on 28/2/2013. At all times, Jesumalar was not informed of the condition and the status of her husband’s detention. When contacted, Sargeant Shahril of Lenggeng Police Station, the officer in charge of the case informed the family that a post mortem was performed on the deceased on 28/2/2013 and the doctors had suspected that the deceased had died of poison from rat urine and that they would conduct further tests.


On 1/3/2013, lawyer Viswanathan together with Jesumalar and SUARAM went to Seremban Hospital to identify Krishnanantham’s body. However, they were not allowed to do so. The Forensic Department claimed that the police and Magistrate had not viewed the body and that a postmortem had not been performed, a stark contrast to what Sargeant Sharil had told the family earlier. The family was also told that the police and Magistrate had to be present in order for the family to view the body. In contradiction, the questionable post mortem was later performed without the presence of the Magistrate and the police, as confirmed by the Forensic Department.


The deceased, Jesumalar and son, Abishek had previously made an application to be registered as refugees to the UNHCR, however, the applications were rejected. SUARAM urges the UNHCR to reassess Jesumalar and Abishek’ application to an expedited determination of their refugee status. The family had faced imminent threat to their lives in Sri Lanka and were forced seek refuge in Malaysia. Now their sole breadwinner is dead and his body will not be released until a letter of release is obtained from the High Commission of Sri Lanka, the Immigration Department and the police.


SUARAM condemns the negligence of the forensic team. The procedural irregularities were apparent even in the presence family and their lawyer. SUARAM is gravely concerned for those who are not legally represented who had, or will face similar fate.


SUARAM demands the government to immediately conduct an inquest on the death of Krishnanantham. Ultimately, SUARAM urges the government to immediately to ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to protect and uphold the rights of asylum-seekers to life, safety and livelihood.


Released by,


Sarah Devaraj

Coordinator for the Refugees

World Refugee Day Carnival – 16 June 2012

You are cordially invited to the Refugee Carnival in conjunction with World Refugee Day 2012

The event will be held as follows

Date: 16 June 2012
Time: 10am – 3pm
Venue: Dewan Dominic, Jalan Robertson Off Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

Pointers for location
– Next to Church of St Anthony and Sekolah Menengah Stella Maris
– Opposite Tung Shin Hospital
– next to Plaza Rakyat LRT station
– please see map attached
– go to link

The following activities are planned
(1) Medical Camp
(2) Legal Desk
(3) Free food and drinks
(4) Children – face painting
(5) Refugee crafts
(6) Distribution of free blankets, table cloth and other household items and clothes
(7) Other activities…

Please assist to disseminate this information to the refugee groups. If there are any refugee groups who wish to sell their products, please email me to register for a booth.

Kindly use the public transport as parking is limited as the Church is having an event.

Jointly organised by
Bar Council
Amnesty International
with the assistance of PKGS




SUARAM strongly condemns the deportation of 11 Chinese citizens of Uighur ethnicity by the Malaysian government on August 18 and views it as another international embarrassment for Malaysia.

“It is a blatant violation of international law and/or international customary law against refoulement (forced return)”. It is also an international embarrassment for Malaysian government to deport vulnerable individuals or a group of people to the country where they may face dangers and risks.

SUARAM is also urged the Malaysian government to publicly clarify the return of these 11 Uighurs and to be answerable and responsible to the question of why the Malaysian government had not given access for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to determine and verify the status of these vulnerable individuals. The government should firstly ensure the safety of these people before returning them back to their country or at least to give access to UNHCR to make verification for asylum claim.

Apart from that, SUARAM strongly urges the Malaysian government to immediately ensure that another five ethnic Uighurs among 16 arrested in raids on August 6 are not forcibly returned to China.

Arbitrary detention, repression and torture against Muslim ethnic minorities including the Uighurs by the Chinese government are well-documented. Handing over (the return) this vulnerable ethnic minority group may lead to grave risk of torture and repression in China.

As a member for United Nations for Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Once again, SUARAM reminds the Malaysia government to not show a bad example of treatment of asylum seekers and refugees to other countries in the region and to immediately halt any plans or actions that can bring a shame to this nation.

SUARAM also urges the Malaysian government to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in order to protect and promote the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia.

Released by,
Andika Ab. Wahab
Refugee Coordinator
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
[email protected]

Asylum Swap Deal & the 60th Year Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention

Press Release (28 July 2011)

Asylum Swap Deal & the 60th Year Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention: Ratify First, Arrange Later

Today, 28th of July, 2011, will mark the 60th year anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention – the first and main international agreement that protects the fundamental rights of refugees across the world. 142 nations have ratified the convention. This number does not include Malaysia.

Asylum Swap deal signed

On Monday, 25th June 2011, Australian and Malaysian governments together signed the controversial asylum swap deal. The deal to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for 4,000 recognized refugees to Australia comes into effect immediately at midnight.

As a human rights organization, SUARAM strongly condemns the decision to continue the deal, which is constantly criticized by additional various quarters including the UN as well as Malaysian and Australian activists.

SUARAM is of the view that this is a gross denial of freedom and the right to seek asylum in Australia, a country that is signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. SUARAM rejects the elucidation that this deal would be a win-win situation for the both governments and a total loss for the smugglers. What about the subjects involved (asylum seekers or transferees)? Do the governments believe this deal will benefit them (asylum seekers)? Do they think this deal will confine asylum seekers to a boat sailing to Australia? This deal does not meet its justification of stopping human trafficking and the smuggling business model.

The failure to look into human rights principles

SUARAM believes that the failure to take into consideration human rights principles is the most crucial and overlooked element in the arrangement. Poor human rights protection has been encouraging asylum seekers to flee from Malaysia and sometimes use whatever means they deem necessary to seek protection.

Both governments must respect the rights of all individuals seeking asylum in Australia and not gamble their fates by transferring them to Malaysia, a country that has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention. The failure to look into human rights principles may lead to the failure to consider those on the losing end: the asylum seekers who will be transferred to Malaysia.

Verbal commitment, insubstantial pact

Ministers Hishamuddin Hussein and his Australian counterpart, Chris Bowen had both officially signed the agreement promising that the 800 asylum seekers will be treated in “dignity” and “respect”. This included their rights to work, access to education and health care, and freedom to move. At the same time, the details of the agreement do not ensure any concrete proposal to enforce the guarantees and promises made by the ministers. If the official arrangement does not guarantee concrete protection to the 800 asylum seekers, how can a verbal commitment claim to ensure concrete protection to the 800 asylum seekers? We believe that these 800 asylum seekers will melt into the 100,000 refugees who suffer and enjoy almost “zero” tolerance and fundamental rights protection.

Ratify first, arrange later

Until now, Malaysia has showed no intention of ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Yet Malaysia is interested getting involved with refugee-related arrangements such as the asylum swap.

Malaysia maintains a blanket policy that all undocumented migrants including refugees and asylum seekers are considered illegal migrants. As such, they can be arrested, deported, and even punished by judicial caning under the immigration act.

SUARAM urges the Malaysian government to first ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and/or at least to develop an effective domestic act and administrative mechanisms before dealing with any arrangements regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

Why should Malaysia ratify?

SUARAM launched its campaign to urge the Malaysian government to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention in May 2011. In conjunction with the 60th year anniversary of the convention on 28th July, we once again urge the government to ratify it in order to provide legal protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of the refugees in accordance with internationally recognized legal and humanitarian standards.

Ratification would also demonstrate the Malaysian government’s commitment for genuine “burden sharing” in handling global issues: developing effective administration and cooperation with UNHCR, reducing the capacity of immigration detention centres, as well as supporting the lack of human resources in various domestic sectors in Malaysia.

Released by,

Andika Wahab
Refugee Coordinator
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
[email protected]