US official: Rohingya migrants enjoy good conditions in Malaysia

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Anne Richard (left) visits the Belantik detention camp for the Rohingya migrants in Bandar Muadzam Shah, Kedah.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — The condition of the Rohingya boat people  in Malaysia is acceptable compared to the conditions in Thai and Indonesian detention camps, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Anne Richard said.

She was satisfied with the layout and accommodation facilities at the Belantik detention camp in Kedah.

“They are being held in modern facilities with clean conditions but they don’t know what to expect (about their future),” she said, adding that the government should review their status quickly.

“I’m surprised by the generosity of Malaysians and how rapidly the general public has organised and sent aid to the immigrants,” she said.

Richard called on Malaysia to ratify the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention but appreciated Malaysia’s move to grant temporary shelter despite not being a signatory.

“Malaysia has a history of being a haven for refugees and I believe it can provide valuable assistance in cases like this to help those genuinely seeking asylum,” she said.

During her three-day visit to Malaysia, Richard lauded the Forces Of Love (FOL) coalition’s initiative to launch a basic education programme, “Early Intervention, Fostering With Love”.

The project aims to secure the welfare of the 404 Rohingya children at the Belantik detention camp by providing basic education, books and other educational material.

The donations will be distributed among the Rohingya children, some of whom are orphans. This is not inclusive of five tonnes of personal use items delivered last week by FOL.

After initially turning them away, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have agreed to house rescued immigrants on a temporary basis, with Malaysia agreeing to a one-year period.

FOL project director Terrence Fernandez stressed it was important to equip immigrants with basic skills during their stay in Malaysia.

Teaching will be done by volunteers and details will be determined during an upcoming meeting between FOL and the Immigration authorities.

“We aim to teach them vocational skills and basic education to allow them better access to jobs and make them marketable in the third country they will    be resettled in,” Fernandez said.

“Rather than letting them sit idle at the detention centre, the programme aims to provide basic education, materials and other activities to help them normalise.”

Kedah Immigration Department Assistant Director Mohd Sabri Zainal said the visit by Richard would cast a positive light on the efforts of Malaysia to care for the immigrants.

“We welcomd the visit to spread word that we are doing our best to care for them (the Rohingya).” he said

“Efforts are ongoing to document the Rohingya immigrants and NGOs will be allowed in for social work after that.”

Sabri said the immigrants were still emotionally unstable and certain items had to be rejected or banned.

“Some wanted to donate skipping ropes for the children but we refused as there was a risk they would be used in suicide attempts,” he said.

“We also shorten toothbrushes as they can turned into crude weapons.”

He said the immigrants were being placed under close supervision.


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