06/09/2016, 14.50
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UN calls on Malaysia to release Rohingya from detention centers

by Joseph Masilamany

Hundreds of refugees who arrived in 2015 during the migration crisis are held whilst noting is done to decide their future. UNHCR Malaysia representative Richard Towle spoke at a photo exhibition on the plight of migrants organised by Agence France-Presse.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Rohingya refugees held in Malaysian detention centres must be released immediately and the governments involved must take charge of them, this according to Richard Towle, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Malaysian representative.

For the UN official, for the refugees to be looked after adequately, they must first be released from detention. He spoke at the launch of Odysseys: A Photographic Exhibition of the Asia and Europe refugee crises by Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, centred on the refugee crisis in the Andaman Sea/Bay of Bengal in May 2015.

More than 3,000 people, mostly from Myanmar, along with migrant workers from Bangladesh, were rescued at sea off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand last year.

Their fate took a turn for the worse when Thailand cracked down on migrants after a mass grave containing the bodies of scores of Rohingya was found near the border with Malaysia, and Indonesia and Malaysia boosted their refoulement policy.

Towle noted that of the 371 Rohingya refugees accepted into Malaysia last year, 36 have been resettled to the United States and the rest are still languishing in detention centres. Yet, as of April this year, there are 53,410 Rohingya refugees registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia.

Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority that is not recognised nor accepted in Myanmar. Every year, thousands of people try to escape the violence that often characterise their relations with the country’s Buddhist majority.

Currently there are more than 150,000 asylum seekers in Malaysia, the UNHCR Malaysian representative noted, and more are expected.

Almost 140,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are from Myanmar, with the rest coming from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Palestine.

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