What if an illegal is raped?

  • Nation
  • Monday, 28 Apr 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: If a “non-documented” foreign woman is raped here, what should she do?

While most Malaysian women would have no qualms about lodging a police report, it might not be so simple for a refugee or asylum seeker in Malaysia.

“They can lodge a police report, but because they know that the police can arrest non-documented migrants, they are afraid to turn to the police for fear they might get arrested instead,” said Migration Working Group (MWG) co-coordinator Alice Nah.

She said victims were also often afraid of repercussions if the rapist was their employer.

“It is extremely difficult to get redress for wrongs as a non-documented migrant, as their status is not officially recognised in Malaysia,” Nah told the Forum on The Right to Redress for Migrant Workers and Refugees, organised by MWG on Saturday.

Lawyer Latheefa Koya said effective redress for violation of human rights through existing mechanisms was dependent on the legal status of the individual.

“In the eyes of the law now, there is no exception if a person is an asylum seeker or victim of trafficking.

“Because we have yet to enforce our trafficking law, and because we have yet to recognise refugees, every person will be recognised as illegal. There is no difference,” she said.

Speaking on “The Refugee Perspective to the Right to Redress”, Latheefa said that if a refugee was recognised here, then he or she would have a legal status as a person who has run away from his country due to conflict.

“But if you do not recognise him, then the other protections (right to work, health, etc) do not come in,” said Latheefa, who is a member of the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre.

There are an estimated 100,000 asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons who seek protection in peninsular Malaysia alone, but as Malaysia has not enacted national legislation with regards to asylum and statelessness, most are treated as non-documented migrants.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah, who chaired the event, highlighted that the right to redress for non-citizens was only possible if they had the right to be heard, stay and work.

Other speakers included Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez and Bar Council Human Rights Committee member B. Renuka.

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