Oxbridge Community Outreach

Members' Area - Current Members

Chin Refugees in Malaysia

Contacts: Kavita Shukla and Larry Thompson This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Edited from RI Bulletin http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/47a6eeb81e.html

The Chin Refugee Committee (CRC) estimates that 12,000 Chin live in Malaysia, of which more than 9,000 are registered with the CRC. More than 2,500 Chin have applied for registration as asylum seekers with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and have been provided with documentation that identifies them to Malaysian authorities. Nearly all of the Chin in Malaysia are males. A few of the Chin, (probably more than 200), are unaccompanied minors, under 18 years old.  Malaysia is a middle income country, but the conditions under which the Chin are living are often deplorable.

The Chin told RI that they came to Malaysia to escape persecution by the army and police of Burma. They told of being arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for alleged ties to the Chin National Front, an organization resisting the Burmese government, of being subjected to forced recruitment as laborers, and of being persecuted for being Christians. Most of the Chin are Baptists, but with a sprinkling of Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Assembly of God members. The Chin refugees left families behind and paid “agents” to assist them to escape from Burma, passing through Thailand en route to Malaysia, while often being forced to work on Thai fishing boats to pay off debts to their agents.

The Chin do not have an easy life in Malaysia. They are working illegally, jobs are irregular, bribes must be paid to local authorities and police, and there is always the fear of detention and deportation. About 120 Chin are presently in squalid detention centers in which they may languish for months or even years while their cases are being decided. Many more Chin reported to us that they had been informally deported by being dumped across the border into Thailand from where they made their way back to Malaysia. The Chin were unanimous in saying that what they most needed in Malaysia was legal protection which would prevent them from being arrested and deported and allow them to work. Their second greatest need was access to medical care.

UNHCR has built up an impressive and important presence in Malaysia and is doing an excellent job interceding with the Malaysian government to register and protect refugees from detention, deportation, and other abuses. The Malaysian government on its part has been less harsh in this most recent refugee roundup than it was in years past. But refugees still complain that the UNHCR registration process is too slow. Chin in locations distant from the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur, such as the Cameron Highlands, are mostly unregistered because of the cost and the risk of going to UNHCR to register. Also, UNHCR registration cards and letters are not always respected by local authorities.

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