Ensure refugees are included in vaccinations, govt urged

KUALA LUMPUR: The government must uphold the principles of leaving no one behind, by ensuring refugees are included in the national vaccination programme and provide a safe space to receive it, says Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

In its message to commemorate World Refugee Day, Suhakam said it recognised the need for cooperation between the government, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and civil society organisations, whose combined efforts would allow for refugees to receive the care they need and protection they seek.

“Their vulnerabilities remain, as their access to basic needs such as education, healthcare and social protection are still not a given, even for UNHCR cardholders,” said Suhakam in a statement yesterday.It also appealed to Malaysians to understand the unfortunate situation faced by refugees forced to flee their homes to our shores.

Suhakam said refugees were seeking a temporary place for their safety and survival.

“Malaysians should ensure the refugee community in the country are well treated with dignity and have their basic needs met, ultimately leading to a more humane, just, inclusive and equal society,” it said.

The commission said the world could not overcome Covid-19 if it overlooked refugees or anyone for that matter as no one is safe until everyone was safe.

It urged the government to adopt comprehensive, inclusive, non-discriminatory and long-term refugee protection policies in the country.

The government should also maintain its international leadership, in terms of deepening cooperation with regional and international communities to identify lasting solutions to the longstanding refugee issues in South-East Asia.

According to the data from the UNHCR in Malaysia, as of May 2021, there were 179,570 registered refugees and asylum seekers, of whom 45,980 are children below the age of 18.

In a separate statement, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) deputy president Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam called on the government to immediately implement appropriate legal and administrative framework to deal with refugees and asylum seekers.

“These included measures that would not force them to return to their home countries until conditions are conducive, the right to work, security from violence and exploitation, opportunities for better access to education as well as affordable healthcare,” he said.

Meanwhile, Agora Society Malaysia called on Malaysians to come forward and provide support to refugees.

It also called on the government to allow them to work legally for the benefit of all parties.

“This would ensure their access to a decent livelihood, and the government could also collect tax from them if the threshold was met,” it added.

Currently, Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol.

Refugees are considered undocumented migrants under immigration laws in Malaysia and are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.

While refugees are not allowed to work legally, many of them work informally.

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