Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kajang’s shelter for refugees raises eyebrows

The Malaysian Insider, Sat, 22 Feb 2014

Malaysia Insider
Amid the activity building up in Kajang as next month’s by-election approaches, one house appears to be attracting considerable attention especially as scores of foreigners have been seen flocking to it, raising concerns that migrants are being brought in for the polls.
Even the police have visited the house.

With the hustle and bustle surrounding it, one might be forgiven for thinking the place was the election operations centre for either the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat but it is actually a halfway house for asylum seekers and refugees.

The Malaysian Insider visited the premises, aptly called Patronage of Refugees, yesterday and met R. Ravindran, who began operating the halfway house in November last year.

He told The Malaysian Insider that the house offered medical assistance only to those from war-torn countries.

"We help refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. There have been Indonesians and Bangladeshis who have sought assistance but we turned them away."

Ravindran, who works for a home appliance company, said the halfway house did not offer documents or work permits to foreign migrants.

"What we do is to offer medical insurance to these immigrants so that they can get treatment at government hospitals."

However, there is a process which the foreign migrants have to undergo before they can be issued with medical insurance cards.

"When these migrants come to the house, they have to produce some form of identification, preferably an identity card issued by their home country or passport.

"We then give them an appointment slip and tell them to come back at a later date. During this time, we verify the identity of the migrants with their embassies."

If the migrant's documents were being held by an agent who refuses to return them, volunteers will take the migrant to the Kajang police station to lodge a report.

The Malaysian Insider discovered that there were 12 Myanmar men and 21 women being sheltered at the halfway house.

The 12 men were suffering from malnutrition and one of them had recently undergone surgery.

It was learnt that most of the women had been referred to the halfway house by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

However, Ravindran declined to elaborate on the background of the 21 women being sheltered at the house.

Several Rela officers were seen on duty at the house yesterday, and their presence was explained by Ravindran: "We asked Rela to provide assistance as there have been scores of Myanmar migrants coming to seek help."

He added that the house was registered with the Registrar of Societies and the Home Ministry.

Several police Special Branch personnel also visited the halfway house yesterday and asked Ravindran to present himself at Bukit Aman for an interview.

It is understood that police had also heard rumours circulating about foreigners leaving the house holding pieces of paper and wanted to know what was going on.

Youth non-governmental organisation Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) had recently voiced concerns over the influx of Myanmar migrants into Kajang.

There was speculation that the Myanmar nationals were flocking into Kajang to help swing the by-election in Barisan Nasional's favour.

During the 13th general election in May last year, PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had alleged that 40,000 Bangladeshi nationals had been brought into the country to vote for BN.

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