U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Living in Limbo: Burmese Rohingyas in Malaysia

NCJ Number
184786
Author(s)
Zama Coursen-Neff
Editor(s)
Joe Saunders, Rachael Reilly
Date Published
August 2000
Length
79 pages
Annotation
Burmese Rohingyas in Malaysia are living in limbo in that most do not have permission to be in Malaysia but they cannot return to Burma where they will be discriminated against.
Abstract
According to the publication, Burmese authorities bear responsibility for the exodus of the Rohingyas. In Malaysia, they are not treated as refugees fleeing persecution who should be afforded protection but rather as aliens subject to detention or deportation in violation of Malaysia's international human rights obligations. Malaysia is highly selective with regard to the refugees to whom it affords protection, and Burmese Rohingyas represent one of the many groups the Malaysian government refuses to recognize as having legitimate claims to protection. Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia are often detained for months in immigration camps where they suffer malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, and beatings before being pushed over the border into Thailand. Further, the Malaysian government restricts their access to educational and health services. To date, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not been able to secure effective legal protection for the Rohingyas. Research by Human Rights Watch in Malaysia in November and December 1999 documented human rights abuses by government officials, including lack of legal protection, refugee treatment that does not meet international standards, and refusal to allow Rohingya children to attend schools. Recommendations are offered to improve the situation of the Rohingyas that focus on the protection of refugees, the prevention of corruption by government officials, the need for humane conditions of immigration detention, the protection of children, and the prevention of statelessness. Specific recommendations are also offered on the role of the UNHCR in protecting the Rohingyas in Malaysia. The UNHCR brochure for asylum-seekers is appended. 296 footnotes and 1 photograph