As the headlines are flooded with all things "political", let us not forget those whom are usually "invisible" from the news. This is especially for those of us who "missed" World Refugee Day!
In conjunction with World Refugee Day, 20th June 2008
Their stories – fifty refugees Malaysia by Aris Oziar
As a Malaysian, I am outraged to hear their stories of Malaysia – 3 years of detention or living in makeshift jungle camps / jungle due to fear of arrest. Stories of a 6 year old girl whose last visit to town was 4 years ago (the mother is too afraid to bring her out), and her 55 year old father who eventually died because the police took all their money the one time they were desperate enough to go to the hospital to treat his illness. And of course, of the Malaysian immigration authorities dumping them across the border in Thailand, where they are rounded up by agents and either pay these agents to get back to Malaysia , or face slave labour – the men in fishing boats and the women, probably sold to the sex trade.
I want people to know that refugees do exist in Malaysia . To know that they braved a dangerous journey to Malaysia to escape atrocities in their own country. To know that most of them live a marginal life, often exploited, almost always in fear
Remembering the Deported and Detained by Alice Nah
Whether Acehnese, Rohingya, Chin, or members of other ethnic groups, all of them have one thing in common. They are deathly afraid of being deported back to their homelands.
Indeed, over the past years, many refugees, stateless people, and asylum seekers have been deported. Those who have made it back into Malaysia tell us of the sufferings they have endured. They tell of their re-arrests, the fact that they have been beaten and interrogated, and the fact that some of their peers do not live to narrate of their own stories of deportation.
Pieces of Alice by TK Tan
I first knew of this lady when she put up an article about RELA raids on The Micah Mandate. It was startling in style, written almost like a script for an action movie. That caught my attention. The little blurb at the bottom telling me that she is a member of the Executive Committee of HAKAM piqued my interest further. So I did what I normally do in these circumstances—I googled her. And wow, she does have quite a presence on the web.
Hearing the voice of the refugee by Sivin Kit
What is important for me at this stage, as a start, is the call to all of us, especially Christians and Muslims, who can open ourselves to the story of Hagar and Ishmael above, and find strength and guidance in this ancient text to hear what God is saying to us in relation to those who are “cast away” from their nations and into our society. The reality, perhaps, is that there are many who are like me not too long ago, when “Refugees” is merely a word and not a face in our consciousness.
Together with those who operate more from a human rights perspective, as well as those who are in the institutions which can effect change, we can engage in ways forward to not only “hear the cries” of those with no home, but also to “lift them up and take them by the hand,” towards building their families and a future of hope. During that Sunday worship, an invitation was given for English teachers for children to come forward to serve. There are always opportunities where we can transform our prayers into action.
I was a stranger by TK Tan
Many years ago I attended a short course on christian communication. In one of those classes, I was taught a fresh view on the person of God. I honestly cannot remember the teacher, nor the details of his teaching. But his main thesis stood in my mind until now: God is biased towards the poor. I have no problems with the notion that God loves the poor. But he insisted that there is a bias. God does not love the rich the same as He loves the poor. No. He loves the poor more. He does not love me the same as He loves the poor. No. He loves the poor more. That teacher brought us through passage after passage in Scripture to emphasize his point and at some point I saw that he had a point. The intention of the teacher was to provoke. And provoked I was. Just to be open to the view that God is partial towards the poor shook my fundamental outlook. Because if I love God, I too need to be partial towards the poor. It is not good enough that I am kind and generous. I need to make sure that my kindness and generosity in greater measure benefit the poor.
In line with the above, we seek the commitment of the Cabinet to ensure that:
- All law enforcement agencies (in particular RELA and Immigration) respect UNHCR documents and refrain from arresting holders of these documents
- The UNHCR is given free and full access to asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in all Immigration Detention Depots and Prisons so that they can verify if asylum claims are genuine and take measures to assist refugees. Recognized refugees should be released into the official care of the UNHCR while durable solutions are found.
- Lawyers are given full access to refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons to ensure that their right to representation is upheld for any form of court proceedings.
- Asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons are exempted from punishment under the Immigration Act 1959/63 (Act 155), using Section 55 of the Act. This is in line with recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
What you can do by Sivin Kit, Alice Nah and TK Tan
What we can do as individuals
- Show kindness. Dignify the migrant worker (the maid, the waiter, the construction worker, the garbage collector, etc.) you encounter with a smile, with an interest in the person, with polite language, with a generous spirit, knowing that they are not as educated or skilled as you.
What we can do as a church
- Start by cultivating relationships with those who are already involved whether NGOs or Christian ministries. Resources and time are limited, and partnership is better than going solo. A good start would be inviting representatives from organizations like Tenaganita (http://www.tenaganita.net/), O2F Network (O2F – “Outreach to Foreign/Migrant Workers” http://www.migrantministry.com/index.php), Migration Working Group (http://migrationmalaysia.net/). Before we jump into any ideas we might have, let us first listen to those who are in the heart of what is happening. Of course, some churches would have the resources to do the work themselves, but the enormity of the challenges as well as the need for discernment calls us to work together for long term transformation.
What we can do in partnership with established organizations
For more involved efforts, you can explore the following. These are much more effective if you do so through an established organization.
- Befriending, care
– friendship, encouragement,
– visiting refugees in detention centres, prisons and hospitals
- Creating awareness and building popular support
– organising forums, writing articles
– speaking to MPs, politicians, church leaders
- Provision of assistance
– milk and nutrition for babies, children and pregnant women in detention and in communities
– food, clothes, etc.
– For refugee community schools – funds, volunteer teachers, curriculum, books, bags, stationery
– For adults – English/Malay/Chinese classes, skills training, income generating projects for women