Monday, 1 June 2015

Know Your Numbers

I never thought I'd ever say this, but it looks like Malaysia has actually been pulling its weight, when it comes to accepting refugees and asylum-seekers.

This latest spate of research came about because Malaysia seems to be starkly divided on the topic of refugees. I wanted to weigh the facts up for themselves.

I realise that the font is small and does not make the best reading so here is the text from the UNHCR website: Know your numbers

As of end April 2015, there are some 152,830 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia.

- 141,920 are from Myanmar, comprising some 49,600 Chins, 45,910 Rohingyas, 12,320 Myanmar Muslims, 7,280 Rakhines & Arakanese, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

- There are some 10,910 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 3,890 Sri Lankans, 1,210 Pakistanis, 1,090 Somalis, 950 Syrians, 830 Iraqis, 540 Iranians, 430 Palestinians, and others from other countries.

Some 69% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, while 31% are women.

There are some 33,000 children below the age of 18.

I did the maths. Almost 93% of the refugees in Malaysia are from Myanmar, which does suggest that Myanmar has a problem that it needs to fix.

My fellow blogger, Helen Ang, has mentioned numerous times in her postings that the Rohingya are economic migrants. She also illustrates her point with examples regarding the Vietnamese and Sri Lankans.

I have personally met Vietnamese who have resettled in Western countries and most of them have no desire to return to their land of birth. In fact, most of them are very proud to have relocated and are, in their own words, "lucky to be here."

Definitely economic migrants.

But back to the Rohingya, if they were merely escaping persecution, why do they not return to Bangladesh? There, they would not be stigmatised for their skin colour or religion.

Is it because they are hoping for better jobs and prospects in affluent countries rather than in Bangladesh?

Seriously. I just wish that people would fix the country that they live in instead of trying to find themselves a new one.

It's not that I don't have any compassion for their hardships. I do. In the Guardian, their sufferings are described in Burma’s boatpeople ‘faced choice of annihilation or risking their lives at sea'.

Nevertheless, this passage caught my eye:

Many of the women endure rape or other sexual violence on the boats or while waiting to travel, and many others are forced into marriage with men who pay for their journey.

Mothers travelling with children are also particularly vulnerable to starvation, as young travellers are given no rations so women often go hungry to ensure that their sons and daughters can eat.

Now, I sympathise with the mothers. It is typical of maternal selflessness; one that I am witnessing in the form of my sister and her one year old rugrat.

However, what stopped me in my tracks is that the women endure rape on the boats. That very strongly implies that the other passengers on the boats, fellow refugees, are guilty of sexual violence and abuse.

If we give amnesty to everyone on that refugee boat, are we allowing rapists and sex predators into our country?

What worries me is that Malaysia does not provide welfare and segregate the refugees.

Under 04 Living As A Refugee In Malaysia, the Malaysian chapter of the UNHCR says that, "There are no refugee camps in Malaysia. Instead, refugees live in cities and towns across Malaysia in low-cost flats or houses side by side local Malaysian homes."

Are we going to be allowing just about anyone into our country?

Almost every country around the world requires a background check for migration purposes. We evidently don't and can't with refugees, as most of them don't even have legal documents with them.

I know that in the UK, refugees are housed in camps and detention centres. Or later, in tower blocks. But they aren't immediately released into society. Even before that, their asylum application is assessed to ensure it is genuine.

The processing of refugees worries me, because as much as I care for human life, I also care about the average Malaysian citizen. The crime rate, as it is, is extremely high.

Helen claims that the Rohingya are suspected of bringing to Malaysia their blood feud against Buddhists.

I was skeptical, as some governments conveniently blame social ills on low-skilled migrants, but the murder rate amongst Myanmarese does seem inordinately high.

Are we inviting further problems into our country?

We should pay more attention to the welfare of Malaysians, instead of putting that of the refugees above it.

If the refugees were truly desperate to live in a Muslim country, free of attacks and persecution, they should take up Gambia on its offer.

Gambia has said that it will take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding south-east Asia to escape oppression.

Good on Gambia.

Now the ball is on the Rohingya court.

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