Human Rights Watch’s Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award: M’sia a ‘migrants abuser’

Human Rights Watch’s Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award: M’sia a ‘migrants abuser’

Christine Chan

from : malaysiakini

Knowingly or unknowingly government policies worldwide have exposed migrants to human rights abuses, according to Human Rights Watch’s(HRW) round-up report for this year.

The report that includes China, Egypt, France Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Thailand, Russia and United States exposes rampant labour exploitation, inadequate access to health care, prolonged detentions in poor and overcrowded conditions.

On Malaysia, the report says corruption and extortion during the recruitment process contributes to deception of migrants over job promises or the validity of their travel documents.

And migrants who do not have work permits including refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of deportation may be subject to arrest, prosecution and deportation under Malaysia’s harsh immigration law.

Punishment also includes imprisonment, caning, heavy fines, and prolonged detention in overcrowded and unhygienic immigration detention centre. Therefore, for fear of arrest and deportation, these migrants may endure exploitative work conditions.

Besides that, according to the report, our local governments have also condoned vigilante style monitoring of migrants by civilians group known as People’s Voluntary Corp (RELA).

RELA, a half- million strong untrained paramilitary force whose members, in conjunction with immigration and police officers, routinely rounds up suspected undocumented migrants.

Further, it reveals that abuses committed during raids include physical assault, threats, humiliating treatment, forced entry into living quarters, extortion, theft and destruction of identity or residency papers.

‘We need to protect them’

Senior researcher in HRW’s Women’s Rights Division, Nisha Varia said that governments seem to think that when people migrate, they leave their rights at home and instead of protecting these people who are already at risk of abuse, many governments further marginalize and punish them.

“Migrants form the backbone of many economies, performing the labour and services that people in their host countries depend on but will not do it themselves”

“Instead of getting respect, freedom and wages they are owed, they are treated as security threats, and in general, as undesirables to be pushed out of sight,” she said.

HRW recommends the Malaysian government to take the following steps:

Expedite judicial process and end any form of corporal punishment for immigration offences;

Ensure asylum seekers, refugees, trafficked persons, and abused workers are not subject to penalties imposed under the Immigration Act 1959/63;

Establish a mechanism for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to report allegations of abuse anonymously. Those filing charges should be guaranteed legal counsel, permission to work, and safety from detention or deportation until judicial processes are complete; and,

Abolish RELA, and until such time, restructure it as a volunteer agency with no role in apprehension of irregular migrants.

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