CENTHRA Initiates Programme to Integrate Refugee Children
Malaysia has been a major destination for refugees seeking refuge from devastating conflicts in the region, notably since the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Throughout the years since, our country has received and assisted many asylum seekers from neighbouring ASEAN countries, the biggest population of which is the Rohingya. Beyond ASEAN, Malaysia has also taken in refugees from outside the region that include Bosnia, Palestine, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen to name a few. Though there are efforts to integrate some of them into our society, there has never been a lasting, established structure to absorb them as residents or citizens.
In the absence of comprehensive policies that allow them to be recognised as members of the society, these asylum seekers have no access to basic rights. This means they cannot earn a living, or have access to necessities such as healthcare. It goes on from there. Having no proper documents due to their status, refugee children do not have access to the public education system that will provide them a stable, systematic academic instruction that our children are getting from schools.
Not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Malaysia lacks a legal framework to support the presence of refugees in our country. This places the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to manage the documentation and the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) which establishes whether a refugee is protected by international, regional or national law.
In its capacity as a research and advocacy group with particular interests in human rights, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) initiated the Write4Humanity Programme as part of its efforts to help refugees get integrated into the Malaysian society.
The Programme arranges for communication between refugee children and Malaysian school-going children as pen pals by snail mail. It provides a platform where refugee and Malaysian children may have the opportunity to form genuine friendships. The Programme empowers Malaysian children to take an active part in philanthropic social responsibility and experience for themselves what they can do in improving the lives of the refugee children who has limited access to education.
The Write4Humanity Programme is only the beginning. CENTHRA is continuously recommending to the Malaysian government to implement policies that will provide free elementary education in public schools for refugee children, to enact our laws so that the basic rights of the refugees are regulated within the scope of the Refugee Convention. This move is not only grounds for humanity but also for the overall health of the human population in Malaysia.
The Malaysian children who are participating in the Programme wrote to us why they would be interested in joining the Write4Humanity Programme and it is comforting to know our future leaders are as in tune to the plight of the refugees as we are. Their entries remarked on wanting to see positive changes to make the world a better place by starting with themselves and to do their bit in making it happen.
Members of the public may also be part of this initiative. We accept contributions in the manner of monetary, volunteerism, and sponsorship to make the Write4Humanity Programme a success.
For more information, write to [email protected]