The government should not treat Rohingya refugees as criminals, but provide them with protection instead, migrant rights group Tenaganita has urged the government.
All Asean ministers, Tenaganita said, must also respond immediately to the matter by meeting and demanding that Myanmar stops the persecution of the Rohingya people.
“This isn't just a Malaysian problem, it is an Asean problem. Therefore, all Asean ministers must respond immediately.
“Further to that, on humanitarian grounds, Asean countries should open their doors to those stranded by giving full protection and respect their rights and dignity.
“The refugees should not be treated as criminals for not holding documents, because it is Burma (Myanmar) that has failed to recognise them and give them valid documents of identity and status,” Tenaganita said in a statement today.
Burma is the former name of Myanmar, but the old name is still being used by those who have refused to recognise its ruling government.
It is a member of Asean, a regional association that is chaired by Malaysia this year.
'Seaworthy refugee vessels to be turned away'
Tenaganita issued the statement in response to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s announcement on Tuesday that it would rescue sinking refugee vessels, but those found to be seaworthy would be given provisions and turned away.
This followed confirmation from the authorities that 1,158 refugees have landed in Langkawi.
Tenaganita said the Rohingya people had been in Myanmar since the 14th Century and should be given valid documents and citizenship by its government, as well as protection and recognition.
Myanmar should also be held accountable for its atrocities against the Rohingya by the global community as well as Asean members, it said.
“On the national context, is Malaysia prepared to host thousands of children, women and men who are suffering out at sea? Sending them back or detaining them is not the answer.
“They are fleeing for protection and for the safety of their lives, as such we must do the needful,” Tenaganita added.
Malaysia currently does not provide official recognition for refugees and treats them as undocumented migrants.