BROUK urges Malaysia to allow independent investigation into Rohingya refugee incident

Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)

Malaysian authorities must conduct a transparent inquiry and allow independent observers to conduct interviews and inspect detention facilities, after more than 500 Rohingya refugees reportedly fled a temporary immigration centre in Penang, leading to the deaths of some of those fleeing, said the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK). According to media reports, six of the refugees were killed, including two women and two children, as they tried to cross a busy highway.

“Even before this incident, many of these refugees would have already been undergoing huge trauma, having escaped a genocide against them in Myanmar,” said Tun Khin, BROUK President. “Malaysian authorities must not only treat them with compassion, but also get to the bottom of what triggered the incident. Rights groups have for years called for an end to the detention of refugees in Malaysia, who are typically held in overcrowded and under-resourced detention centres, causing untold distress to the men, women and children being held there.”

Media reports said that 528 Rohingya escaped the Sungai Bakap immigration detention centre in the early hours of April 20 after a “riot” took place. Videos shared on social media showed mainly women and children along the side of the road, while others showed groups of people squatting on the side of the road after being detained by police.

As of the morning of April 21, 448 of those who escaped have been re-detained and are being held in four detention centres across three states. It has since emerged that all of those who fled the immigration centre had been held there since 2020.

As of January 2022, there were 103,560 Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers registered in Malaysia with UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency. However, Malaysia is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and refugees in the country do not have access to fundamental rights including legal status, safe and lawful employment, formal education and equal protection of the law. In addition, their lack of legal status means that refugees are at risk of arrest, detention and exploitation.

“Malaysia must take the opportunity to show itself a leader when it comes to human rights and rule of law in the region and immediately sign the Refugee convention, and improve conditions inside its detention centres,” Tun Khin said. “It is very possible for Malaysia to protect its own interests, while treating these vulnerable people in a dignified and humane way.”

For more information, please contact Tun Khin on +44 7888714866.