27 June, 2008

Set up Royal Commission on Sabah migration issue

From The Star Online :

A royal commission needs to be set up to study the migration issues in Sabah and be acted upon with greater emphasis on human rights and humanitarian concerns, said Amnesty International Malaysia.

In a statement Friday, its campaigns coordinator K. Shan said the simplistic and arbitrary action to crackdown irregular migrants in Sabah would only elevate the ongoing human rights and humanitarian concerns in the state to a serious crisis level.

"Amnesty International, in its monitoring of the situation in Sabah, has recorded an existence of a very high number of asylum seekers and refugees who have fled from the conflict ridden state of Mindanao.

"We have also recorded a high number of stateless people and migrants, including children, who have lived in Sabah for more than 10 years," he said, adding that the unilateral action by the Government may result in serious human rights violations.

Therefore, he said, a royal commission must be set up immediately for specify actions, in compliance with human rights and humanitarian standards, to be taken in an utmost transparent and accountable manner.

"We urge Malaysia, as a member of Asean and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to demonstrate strong commitment in upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights," he said, adding that the country must also be responsive to crises happening in the region.

He said Amnesty International had raised serious concerns with regards to the Government's mass expulsion.

"These include the risk of mass expulsion without examining the individual circumstances of undocumented migrant workers and stateless people, the risk of cruel inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest and detention and the risk that all detainees, especially women and children, may suffer other human rights violations," he said.

In a bid to eliminate a major sore point roiling the state of Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced Wednesday that the government intends another of its sporadic attempts to rid the East Malaysian state of illegal immigrants.

The question is whether the attempt is more political than economic.

An official estimate a whopping 2.3 million registered foreign workers are trying to make a living in Malaysia, a nation of 26 million people. Most observers believe the total, including illegal migrant workers, is far higher.

We must solve the problem of illegal immigrants in a humane manner. We must treat them as human beings and not animals. The amnesty offer must be a once in a lifetime offer and not to be repeated for another 15 years at the earliest.

As with most countries, when hard times start to appear – and Malaysia’s economy is starting to turn down – migrants get the blame for rising crime, stealing jobs from the locals, cultural pollution, overloading school systems, not carrying their share of the tax burden and even spreading HIV, almost none of which is true.

The question is whether Malaysia will ultimately back away from the plan. After driving out hundreds of thousands in 1994, it eventually begged them to come back – legally – to take jobs that Malaysians wouldn’t take.

Read more here.



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