CHAPTER 4: TREATMENT OF ROHINGY A IN MALAYSIA
Senator's Lugor's report, trafficking has stopped in Malaysia, there is cause to believe that it is still an ongoing issue. 256
Article 22 instructs the Member State to ensure that a child who is stateless must have
access to international human rights or humanitarian instruments. It has removed its initial reservation on Article 22 in 1999 but it has yet to implement the provision. Nevertheless, as a signatory to the Convention, Malaysia has an obligation to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child.
The Malaysian immigration authorities have not shown much difference in the treatment of children as compared to the adults. They are detained in the centres together with the adults. This contradicts the CRC, Article the UN Standard, the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles and Guideline 5 of the UNHCR's Guideline on the Detention of Asylum Seekers expressly states that minors should not be detained with adults261 An Arakanese, S. Yusof, who was detained in the Lenggeng detention camp reported that both adults and minors from thirteen to fifteen years were detained together.
In more severe cases of abuse, children are separated from their parents and deported on their own. The UNHCR staff in the Kuala Lumpur office reported to the Human Rights Watch that they knew of two ten-year old Burmese boys who were detained and deported to Thailand on their own. Children should not be separated from their parents. Article 9 of the CRC states that children should not be separated from the parents unless a competent authority determines that it is in the best interests of the child. It is also against Principle 31 ofthe Body ofPrinciples for the Protection of all Persons under Any Form of Detention and the UNHCR's Guideline on the Detention of Asylum Seekers.262 Rohingya children undergo a tremendous amount of trauma. In Myanmar, the child faces severe human rights abuses. They flee to escape the constant persecution. They hide their way in the dark to enter into a foreign country with the threat of an arrest continuously
~61 Trapp~d in u Cycl.: of Flight. op. crt.
:u~ Human Rights Wat~h. op. ci/.
looming over them. They live in fear of being caught by the police even as they try to seek help from the UNHCR. If they are arrested, they are detained in a centre that has no appropriate facilities to house children for a short or long time. Nothing a stateless Rohingya child experiences is something any child should go through. They should not be traumatised further by losing their parents. If at all children are separated from their parents, the government must respect both their rights to maintain their relationship by having regular contact with each other.
The Home Ministry, at the request of Parliament in June/July 2009 has given the number of children detained in these centres. Although there is no specific calculation for Rohingya children, they are amongst the 1,061 Burmese children detained. A Rohingya youth has reported his experience when he was mistaken for a child and arrested in the market.263
To register a child in the local schools, a parent/guardian must produce birth certificate or a UNHCR identification card. Rohingya children are not given any birth certificate by the Burmese government and many of them are not registered with the UNHCR. Without a birth certificate or the UNHCR card, they are barred from studying in the local state schools. Those who are registered with the UNHCR are eligible to use the registration card to gain entry into the local public schools. However, the children who hold these cards fall under the 'permanent resident' category. This means they are recognised as foreigners, and thus, the schools charge them higher fees, do not provide school books and face more red tape in the application process. Nur Hassan bin Nur Mahmud and Mohammad Hassan had managed to secure places in the public school in Sentul. The
4ual Rights Trust, op. ell. "l spent 14 days in th~ s~ntul poli~e lockup. They detained rne in the children·s section. It "as on.:
roorn with 20 boys. We received little food and no clothes to change. I had to sle.:p on th.: tloor .... Vler th.: cotu1 sentenc.:d me. I was sent to Kajangjail for three month and 20 days in the child section ... The jail guards slapped nN five times when I said 1 was li·om Bunna. We were also slapped when we did not loll ow the rules of the jail. In .:menyih carnp I was puttogcth.:r with the adults because there was no separate ward for children. only one tor women and small ~hildren. I was not beat.:n but h.: lood' as bad. We only r.:ceiwd nee with salteu dry I ish. I did not Iiiii sid. .. but there w.:rc detainees with 1"1~ and Ill\.··
school began raising the school fees of the boys when they realised that they were not Malaysians. The parents were left with little choice but to withdraw them from the school.
Most of the Rohingya cannot afford the fees.
Therefore, most of the 3,600 Rohingya children in Malaysia do not get a basic education.
Due to this as well, Rohingya parents send their children to work at a very young age. Small, informal schools are set up in rented flats with barely any facilities in an effort to fill in this gap. NGOs and community-based schools, in seeking to rectify this, have accepted Rohingya children. Children as young as 13 years of age are often not students in a classroom but like Jamilah are teachers. Her community is unable to afford a teacher so she teaches whatever she knows on Islamic studies to those younger than her. A religious school elder, Ustaz Hashim who only teaches Islamic studies and the Koran states that there are barely any facilities available to the children. "What future will our Rohingya children have without knowledge?" he asks. The students he teaches are between the ages of 7 and 12 years. More than 70% of Rohingya children residing in Malaysia are of school-going age264 If this continues, this will eventually lead to an illiterate generation. In a United Nations survey two years back, illiteracy among the Rohingya ranges up to 80%, most ofthem women.265
In light of this, Reverend Elisha Stavinder who had set up a school, Harvest Centre, for the underprivileged, began to provide places for Rohingya children to study in an affordable and safe environment. Today, more than half of the centre's children are Rohingya.266 All the children are given three meals a day and a nominal fee is charged.267
26-lismail, Yant.:. "Hop.: for Ialaysia home-learning Rohingya refugees··. 14 July 2006: 17. \ugust 20 I 0.
http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/new opendoc.htm?tbi= EWS&id=44b7c4ld4
:6~Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Myanmar: Rohingyas in 1\Ialaysia seek education. oppor1unities", 8 June 201 1: 1 I February 2012. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4dn fJcd2.html
:"6Hope for :O.Ialaysia horne-learning Rohingya relirgees. foe. en
:•7!-;oay . .-\.II an. "Harvest C.:ntre: Lessons rrom the hear1": JO \lay 20 I J.
http://thestar.eom.my/1 i festvie!story.asp?fi le-/20 I 2/4/2/lifefocus/1 0889302>"
A lot oftime is spent persuading Rohingya parents to allow their children to come to work instead of going to work.268
Another school that carries out a similar mission is set up by the UNHCR. Many of the Rohingya children do not know how to read and write and this makes it difficult to teach them. According to Umar Arif, the students take a slow time to catch up because they do not have any basic education. This is because the Rohingya children do not have any access to education in Myanmar.
A Rohingya mother who was interviewed stated, "Our children have grown up without knowing how to read and write ... They must know how to count. They must know science and geography. What future will our Rohingya children have without knowledge?" The UNCHR community services officer, Brittocia Arulanthu has stated that depriving children of education "handicap[s]" them. They are not able to develop and attain their full potential. School allows them to have a normal life. The Rohingya children are so hungry for education that a Rohingya girl, Zarina, is willing to walk ten kilometres to school because her school bus is unreliable.
If the child fall sick, the parents try their best to avoid a hospital visit for fear of being arrested on their way. 269 The Rohingya who are registered with the UNHCR are entitled to seek health care from the local government hospitals. However, most of them do not go as they cannot afford the hospital charges even though it is half the price for foreigners270 The mobile clinics that are run by some NGOs have limited service areas so they do not assist the Rohingya very much either.
268(-lope for Malaysia home-learning Rohingya refi.tge.:s. foe. cu.
~69Rdiage.:s lnt.:rnational. "Rohingya: Burma"s forgotten minority··. 18 Dec 2008: 20 ~\larch 2011
http://www.refi.1ge.:sinternational.org/policylfield-report/rohingya-burma0'oE2'J.o80~o99s-forgotten-minority :·o E4ual Rights Tru;t. op. ell.