Tamil refugees did not choose to come here

Eashvara Lingam

Modified 21 Jun 2010, 8:25 am

We wish to call on the Ministry of Home Affairs to take speedy action for the release of the 75 Sri Lanka Tamil boat people who were detained about a month ago. There are several women and children in this group.

It is reported that several of them have fainted and are in bad health condition due to their indefinite fast over the last five days. Urgent attention is needed on medical care for these detainees.

The Home Ministry and the UNHCR shall take immediate steps to ensure that they are resettled in a third country or handed over to the UNHCR so that they could be granted refugee status by the UNHCR here.

These people did not choose to come to Malaysia. They were rescued by the Malaysian authorities when their boat malfunctioned at the sea while on their way to a third nation.

Malaysian authorities should show compassion and on humanitarian grounds, free them from detention or at least the women and children and the aged should be released. They are in the camp without proper sanitation, clean water, medical care and food.

In the meanwhile, we wish to call on the government to grant temporary work permits to the refugees to work here. Also, the government should consider signing the 1951 Refugees Convention Agreement.

Statistics show that there are about 80,000 refugees from various parts of the world in Malaysia. Granting them temporary work permits would also ease the shortage of manpower here.

We also wish to urge the director-general of the Immigration Department to permit representatives of NGOs and community-based organisations to visit the detainees at the camps so as to console and counsel them.

An e-mail to this effect has been sent to the Minister of Home Affairs and the director- general of the Immigration Department.

The writer is coordinator, Sri Lanka Tamil Refugees Humanitarian Programme.