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KUALA LUMPUR, June 9, 2015:

DAP lawmaker Charles Santiago has asked the government not to delay allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) immediate access to the Belantik detention centre in Kedah.

The centre is the temporary home for the 1,158 Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees left stranded in Langkawi recently.

“UNHCR will separate and process them, whether they are economic migrants or politically persecuted.

“The Malaysian government is already committed to the process by giving them one year in the country.

“So by restricting access, they are just slowing down the process of registering these refugees,” he said when met in Parliament.

He told The Rakyat Post that if Malaysia did nothing, it would reflect on the country’s current Tier 3 ranking in the United States anti-human trafficking report.

“Malaysia can then be thrown out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

“We have just brought down 99 bodies from our jungles and we are still not doing anything about it,” said Santiago.

He said there must be more serious action taken or the perpetrators would be getting away with murder.

“The government cannot hide any more after the Special Branch document, that said 80% of enforcement officers were on the take, was leaked.

“This shows complicity which has to stop.”

He also said a discussion would be held today in Parliament to see how Malaysia can push forward in protecting the interests of Rohingya in Malaysia and Myanmar.

The discussion will see NGOs working on refugee issues, migrant workers and other groups meeting at a roundtable on human trafficking and Rohingya.

PKR legal bureau chief Sivarasa Rasiah said the meeting would discuss the issue in its entirety since it was a complex and multi-faceted problem.

“It is the first meeting since we set up the Pakatan Rakyat committee to deal with the Rohingya issue.

“We have to tackle it from many different levels. The Foreign Ministry has to play a role. Asean needs to do so as well.

“If you look properly, Thailand and Cambodia are doing a much better job at handling migrants and refugees. They are stricter and clearer about their policies,” he told The Rakyat Post.

Sivarasa said Malaysia must put pressure on Myanmar to treat Rohingya as citizens.

He said Malaysia had dealt with a far bigger number of refugees before.

“In the 1970s, we dealt with a few hundred thousand Vietnamese refugees. We placed them in huge camps in Sungai Besi and Pulau Bidong before they were eventually resettled.

“The government must deal with the concept of refugees, sign the 1951 convention and create a legal framework regarding the issue.”

He said while Malaysia had no problem bringing in huge numbers of foreign workers, for some reason it could not process the Rohingya as refugees.

“Why can’t we offer these people work?”

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