Refugee issues and the challenges

By Aina Aqilah

GOMBAK, 5 December 2017: “If you do not want them in your country, just make sure to free them from assaults by the authorities,” an international conference was told today.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Salawati Mat Basir told a three-day ‘International Conference on Forced Migration and Refugee Studies: Issues and Shifting Paradigms (ICMR2017)’, which opened here today at the university’s Senate Hall, that the world now had a problem with the flow of millions of refugees.

She highlighted the world’s top refugee countries which included Iran, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya and Turkey. “Now, Bangladesh and Malaysia are also included in this group of refugee countries.”

The reason the refugees had to leave for other countries is because they are living in danger and lacking of human rights in their own country. Because of that, she added, they needed to travel to other countries for safety. They also wanted to run away from the horrible life they are faced with, in a country that is poverty stricken as well as a dysfunction government.

In her speech, Dr. Salwati had affirmed the issues and challenges that the world had to face now especially countries in South East Asia and Europe on the problems of refugees.

Starting from 2010, she said, Europeans do not want to deal with refugees’ problems and they even do not want to talk about it. “Germany is quite fine with refugees but they have started to think about it after some problems cropped up.”

She also said European countries do not want to accept these refugees on the grounds of religion and terrorism. As a result, this has led to the religious problem, discrimination as well as Islamophobia.

Another problem cited is that refugees could not stay in one country only because the country keeps rejecting them. For example, the Turkey authorities expelled them to Syria. Malaysia and Thailand also do not want to see them on boat.

She shared her experience when she went to discuss the issue of the Rohingya with Majlis Keselamatan Negara (Malaysia’s National Security Council) but was told that they will not accept the Rohingya because they are “neither refugees nor stateless”. “So, Malaysia also had a problem to accept the Rohingya.”

She also shared her research in Lebanon and Italy where she found that Muslim refugees became converted to Christians because it is the only way to get out from the situation they faced. She also said it will not be easy for them to move to countries like Denmark and Sweden. “Once again, religion is the main issue.”

“In Malaysia, we have 182,000 refugees but only 100,000 refugees are recognised. The other 82,000 refugees are classified as illegal immigrants, when the authorities stopped and jailed them, they paid the policemen to get out,” added Dr. Salawati.

She stated that the Europeans offer Turkey 7 billion dollars to stop the refugees from coming to Europe. They also wanted to give free visa to the Turkish and though to make Turkey as a member of European Commission. However, it was condemned by many parties. In Australia also, they banned the refugees from coming into the country and jailed them.

She continued, “If no one wanted to accept them, where would they go then. The issue of refugees keeps rising day by day because everyone keeps silent in this matter.”

“We say we sympathise, but in terms of politics and government, no one would say, ‘I will take these people’,” Dr. Salawati Mat Basir lamented. ***

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