IN light of World Refugee Day, we want to celebrate and honour the strength and courage of refugees around the globe, as well as their resilience in rebuilding their lives.
In the past year, negative perceptions towards refugees have amplified during times of crisis. June 20 is recognised as World Refugee Day, a day designated by the United Nations Refugee Agency to focus global attention on the plight of people fleeing conflict or persecution. This day offers a chance to raise awareness on the plight of refugees around the world and of the efforts to protect their human rights.
While the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other local civil society groups in Malaysia have always commemorated World Refugee Day with a number of activities to help raise awareness, Malaysian authorities have consistently pursued a number of punitive measures targeting refugees in the country. The problem deeper rooted in our nation is the lack of distinction between refugees and undocumented migrants and the inconsistencies in government policies towards refugees in Malaysia.
Labelling refugees as “illegal immigrants” has led them to suffer lack of security in all aspects of their lives and exposed them to grave protection risks on a daily basis. Malaysia must start to recognise the courage and perseverance of refugees in the country. We must advocate for a more inclusive society where we can celebrate the stories, histories, cultures, languages and lives of refugees.
Accepting, protecting and empowering refugees is a win-win formula both for the refugees and for Malaysia. By providing them with rights to work, health and education, refugees can quickly integrate into the labour force and become productive members of society.
More importantly, accepting refugees protects the most precious right of all – the right to live.
Moving forward, the government should be encouraged to have strategies in place to build a more inclusive and welcoming society in addition to raising awareness and understanding on refugee issues in Malaysia.
Turning our backs on refugees in many cases is a violation of fundamental human rights. World Refugee Day provides an opportunity for communities to recognise and understand challenges that refugees face in Malaysia. – June 19, 2022.
* Karisma Putera and Simraatraj Kaur Dhillon are research and advocacy analysts at Bait Al-Amanah.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.