From Immigration to Integration

Beneath the glitzy, modern towers of central Jakarta, with the sun reflecting its heat upon the ground, a handful of tents are perched on the side of the road, right next to the UNHCR building in Kebon Sirih. These tents however are not temporary; these have been the permanent homes for many refugees stranded in Jakarta.

Mahmood is a 40-year-old Afghani refugee who have resided in Indonesia for over 5 years. Out of fear of being persecuted, he ran away from his home, leaving his wife and 8 kids, searching for a safe place to call home. $8000 was how much he paid the people smugglers to get him out of Afghanistan.

His journey is difficult and rough to say the least, and far from over. In 2013 he left Afghanistan in the hopes of coming to Australia. He first went to India for 12 days, then Malaysia for 4 days, and then he took a boat to Medan, and then to Jakarta. Here, he registered his name to UNHCR, before making his way to Australia.

“In the past, in January 2014, I came to Australia by boat. Then 12 days with the immigration, border protection of Australia in the big boat. After that they send me back to Jakarta, in the orange boat. My boat was demolished,” he said.

Australia has a policy of returning boats carrying refugees before it reaches its shore. In the process, boats carrying refugees are intercepted by Australia’s border force before entering Australia’s water, then refugees are ultimately transferred into a small, cramped, and dingy orange boats to be sent back to Java. Mahmood fell victim to Australia’s petty politics of the gambling of refugees’ lives in returns for popularity with its electorates. He was officially deemed a refugee by UNHCR 20 months after he first registered.

“I’m hopeless now,” he said when asked of what hopes he has.

Mahmood is just one case in many of refugees who are stuck in transit countries, in danger of returning back to their homes yet unable to go their intended destinations. In Southeast Asia alone, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have been the host of many refugees from Somalia, to Rohingya to Afghanistan among others.

Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and Adeline met Mahmood and other Refugees last year to celebrate Christmas.

The problem however is that refugees in these countries ultimately have no rights. As neither Thailand, Malaysia nor Indonesia have signed or ratified the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugee Rights, they therefore have no rights in being there, nor have any rights to citizenship. They are not only living in poor conditions, but unable to receive education or proper health care, unable to work and risk being deported due to their legal status as being “illegal aliens.” As the world is becoming increasingly isolationist, the case of refugees being stuck in transit countries will only rise.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia claims that despite not a party to the Refugee Convention, they would provide minimal protection to refugees, including adherence to non-refoulement principle on humanitarian grounds. Yet this is promise is fragile to political changes, and does not insure refugees proper living conditions.

While the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) has a body to protect human rights, their refugee protection mandate remains weak. It is therefore necessary for states within ASEAN to ratify the Refugee Convention to assure some rights to refugees and for the region to cooperate in creating a plan of action for the protection of refugees. But more importantly, it is necessary to tackle the original reasons that cause people to flee their home. In an era where states are increasingly becoming more isolationist in a more globalised world, it is no longer possible to simply turn a blind eye against conflict that can cause an influx of people to flee their homes. Origin, transit and destination countries are responsible for protecting the rights of refugees.

In the wake of the International day of Human Rights, Mahmood’s case reminds us of the plight of those who are persecuted and risked their lives in the hopes of finding a better place to live. In the spirit of ‘gotong royong,’ we must remember that help is also needed for those who are not a citizen and who is simply looking for safety.

——

This article is written by Adeline Tinessia. Adeline has been intern at HRWG for the past couple of months. She is studying a bachelors of International Security Studies, taking a focus on Southeast Asia and specifically on Indonesia.

 

 

 

 

 

Migrant Workers’ Rights in ASEAN Region: A Baseline Study

Labour migration is a global growing concern in the 21st century. In the ASEAN region, migrant workers form the backbone of the sprawling fishing industries of Thailand, the concrete jungles of Singapore and the lucrative plantations of Malaysia. They also traverse public-private boundaries to ‘maintain’ the smooth running of households, thus allowing their employers to participate in the national workforce.

Despite this huge significance, holistic measures and legal frameworks to respect, protect and fulfill migrant workers’ rights at a regional level remain inadequate. Ideally, there should be a legally binding regional instrument that guarantees the rights of migrant workers throughout the migration cycle. However, a decade of elusive negotiations proves to be unsuccessful. ASEAN states still cannot come to an agreement on the adoption of such an instrument. As an alternative, ASEAN states have recently adopted ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ASEAN Consensus).

This choice is largely criticised because the document simply imposes moral weight, as opposed to legal obligations, on ASEAN states. This means that ASEAN Consensus merely governs the basic principles and norms without specifying any concrete and directly applicable measures to protect migrant workers. Furthermore, most of the principles enumerated in the ASEAN Consensus are subject to national laws of ASEAN states, making the protection of migrant workers relatively uncertain and weak.

In order to ensure the utmost protection, promotion, and enjoyment of the rights of migrant workers, it is important to understand the situation and context of human rights problems affecting migrant workers in the region. Against such a backdrop, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) carried out a baseline study and organised a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on 30-31 August 2018 with the purpose to collect crucial information and data from representatives of Civil Society Organization (CSO) in each ASEAN Member State (AMS). This baseline study is aimed at identifying the current conditions pertaining to the implementation of migrant workers’ rights, focusing in particular on the following issues that are already discussed in the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ASEAN Consensus):

  1. decent work and social protection
  2. undocumented migrant workers and cross-cutting human rights issues
  3. access to justice
  4. information, empowerment, and recruitment
  5. repatriation and reintegration
  6. cooperation among AMS and mechanisms
  7. standard-setting and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Family Members 

It is paramount to have a baseline study on issues that have become a political commitment of ASEAN Member States, for it could help ensure the effective implementation of such a commitment in addressing human rights abuses against migrant workers Migrant Workers’ Rights in ASEAN Region: A Baseline Study is aimed at offering an insight into the human rights situation of migrant workers in the ASEAN region post the 2017 ASEAN Consensus. As a result of collaborative work of ASEAN civil society, this book shows a common concern on the state of migrant workers as well as the hope of more collaborative work among ASEAN states to improve such situation.

Download the full book in Google Drive or Dropbox.

[Article] Citizenship Challenges in Myanmar’s Democratic Transition: Case Study of the Rohingya-Muslim

Citizenship Challenges in Myanmar’s Democratic Transition: Case Study of the Rohingya-Muslim

Ahmad Suaedy (Abdurrahman Wahid Center) Muhammad Hafiz (Human Rights Working Group)

 

(the article published by Studia Islamika, ISSN: 0215-0492, e-ISSN: 2355-6145, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2015)

Abstract

As a part of the Myanmar transition to democracy, which began after the election in 2010, the census on March-April 2014 refused to count the Rohingya ethnic group. This was symbolic of the Myanmar government’s rejection of Rohingya people as citizens. The paradox is that democracy necessitates a guarantee of fundamental freedoms and recognition of all group identities. Through in depth interviews with a number of Rohingya political and social leaders at the end of March 2014, in Yangon, this research details the Rohingya struggle to secure their rights in the political process. A number of documents both from the Rohingya and from the Myanmar government justify why and how the process of exclusion and discrimination occurs. This research will conclude with a discussion of the challenges and recommended steps for the future to accommodate the Rohingya as Myanmar citizens, and of the need for international and regional support.

Keywords

Rohingya; Rakhine; citizenship; democracy; transition; Myanmar

Source: http://journal.uinjkt.ac.id/index.php/studia-islamika/article/view/1387