Human smuggling, trafficking crimes of different stripes

Josh Hong

A Rohingya man waits for his children to finish class at a refugee school in Selayang, Selangor, last August. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the virulent campaign against the community has done nothing to improve their protection and the prevention of human trafficking. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 27, 2020.

LAST Wednesday, the Alor Star High Court overturned a lower court’s decision to cane 27 Rohingya refugees who entered Malaysia without valid papers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees lauded the move as “a clear understanding of international refugee law in a mixed-migration context, and the need for upholding protection measures for refugees and asylum seekers”.

The Malaysian media and public tend to regard those who enter the country without proper documentation as “illegal immigrants”, and fail to understand that many may very well be victims of human trafficking. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to pay traffickers exorbitant sums to flee persecution in Myanmar, or to escape the appalling conditions at overcrowded refugee camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

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