KUALA LUMPUR — “Allah does not charge a soul except (with that within) its capacity.” (Surah al-Baqarah, verse 286)
That was the simple answer given by Ustaz Rafik, leader of the Rohingya community in Selayang, Selangor, when asked how much longer the Rohingya will be tested before they receive the attention of the local and international communities.
For Rafik, the Rohingya from Myanmar have it much better now unlike when they arrived here some 30 years ago following their persecution in Rakhine.
Rafik believes various protests including the recent ones showing solidarity for the Rohingya, which was joined by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, now provide a beacon of hope to the small community.
The immediate action the community wants to see is for the government and authorities to issue identity documents for the ethnic group that allow them to work and support their families, he said.
Nurainie Haziqah Shafi’i, founder of MyWelfare, a non-governmental organisation that cares for the Rohingya refugees in Selayang, said though they did not offer luxuries at least they had been provided with a roof over their heads and basic necessities.
Established three years ago, hundreds of refugees, especially women and children, have benefited from MyWelfare when it comes to education and food aid.
Contributions and collections from the public allowed them to provide for the community, though insufficient at times.
“This is what we can do. Sometimes there are activities with the community where they can mingle, cook, read, play, watch movies and more. As humana, they have the right to their rights and protection even without a card or identification,” said Nurainie Haziqah.
Special Envoy of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for Myanmar Tan Sri Dr Syed Hamid Syed Albar said the Malaysian government had nothing to fear and should find a solution to eradicate the UNHCR card syndicate menace.
Syed Hamid, who is also a former foreign minister, pointed out once the card was issued to eligible individuals the authorities could easily monitor their movements, needs and actions to avoid negative elements like crime.
“If they still have no identity, it could pose a threat as they could be abused by others. Remember, they are treated as outcast back in their own country. The solution is to send them back to Myanmar, but unfortunately they are not recognised as its citizens.
“So they are stateless in their country of origin and here too. According to international laws we cannot force them out. They will get married and give birth here. If things are not organised, there will contribute to crime, social problems and left behind for want of education. We are already seeing this happening now.”
Syed Hamid, who is also president of HUMANiTi Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on humanitarian aid and education, said when the UNHCR cards were issued the employment status of refugees was automatically valid and the government did not need to take in foreign workers.
He explained that besides employment, the card would also indirectly helped refugee children obtain education in local religious and non-religious schools hence creating brighter prospects for them to migrate to third countries.
“The refugees and the community will soon be recognised as they will have skills to bring to a third country. When there is demand, there will definitely be offers. Such a scenario is not impossible,” he said.
FAKE UNHCR CARD SYNDICATES FOILED?
Meanwhile, sources revealed to Bernama that individuals involved in fake UNHCR card syndicates were former UNHCR staff who claimed they could help expedite applications. The syndicates made quick bucks on the desperation of the refugees.
After the syndicate was uncovered, effective July 20 last year, the Cabinet forbid UNHCR from issuing cards to walk-in applicants.
As the cards were issued following stringent screening, the process of replacing old UNHCR cards took time to weed out the fake UNHCR cards.
The syndicate issuing fake UNHCR cards first came to light several years ago after Malaysian authorities detained foreigners holding fake UNHCR cards after they entered Malaysia illegally.
Malaysia and the UNHCR have worked together for 41 years since the UNHCR office was set up in the country in 1975 following a flood of applications from Vietnamese asylum seekers.
UNHCR’s main role in Malaysia was to process refugee status applications filed by asylum seekers as well as coordinate resettlement for refugees in third countries.
Due to problems faced by UNHCR in expediting resettlement of refugees to third countries, refugees in the country were provided with UNHCR cards.
PIONEER PROJECT TO
In July, the government announced a pioneer project to allow 300 Rohingya refugees holding UNHCR cards to work in Malaysia.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said those who were eligible and met government requirements would be allowed to work in the farming and manufacturing sectors.
Though Malaysia is not a member of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and Protocol 1967, the country’s proactive actions in handling immigrants and refugees on humanitarian grounds clearly proves Malaysia has exceeded its obligations at the international level.
Recently, Nur Jazlan said the government and UNHCR were in the process of setting appropriate policies before they could determine the 300 individuals eligible to take part in the pioneer project.
“We cannot start without a plan and guideline for the project. We need to look at the job scope be it the service sector, cleaning and others, according to the industry needs,” he said. — Bernama