Life in Malaysia better: Rohingya refugee

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh: "My life in Malaysia was way better than at this refugee camp, but I have to be here to take care of my family," said Musa Khalil, 27, who is among the refugees at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp, about 35km from here.

Following the continuing conflict at his birthplace in Rakhine province, Myanmar, he fled with his family to Kutupalong when he was five with the hope of securing a better life.

Musa had worked in Malaysia from 2009 till 2014 to help change the fate of his family but due to his refugee status and lack of accurate information on job opportunities in Malaysia, he was forced to return to the refugee camp.

He was cheated by middlemen who promised a better life, when in reality, with the refugee status it was impossible for him to work legitimately in Malaysia.

Musa, who can converse in Malay, said life was hard at the refugee camp and they had to withstand hunger as they lacked food and it was difficult for them to get (clean) water and go to the toilet.

"Many of the refugees here see Malaysia as a chance for them to free themselves from the problems that shackle them, but it is not as easy as they think due to their status as refugees.

"Many of us have family members working in Malaysia. If we are lucky, we can get jobs, but many have been cheated by those who promised to help," he added.

Meanwhile, for 23-year-old Syed Hossein who had worked in Malaysia for one year and six months, said that during the time he was in Malaysia, he was able to help support his family of eight but when he returned (to the refugee camp) their lives changed for the worse.

"Life is very hard here. I have no money and job, but everything is expensive. If we are ill, we are unable to get medicine, and our shelters only have the ground as the floor and walls of canvas," said Syed Hossein who was born in the refugee camp.

Many Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cardholders but the government does not recognise the refugee status of the ethnic Rohingya as Malaysia is not a signatory to (United Nations) 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Basically, this has caused them to not be able to work in Malaysia.

However, based on humanitarian grounds, the Malaysian government has allowed UNHCR cardholders including the Rohingya with legitimate UNHCR cards to seek temporary refuge in Malaysia until they are sent back to their country or placed in a third world country.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will travel to Cox's Bazar tomorrow to assess the situation of the Rohingya refugees during his working visit to Bangladesh which begins today, reflecting Malaysia's concern and seriousness on the Rohingya refugee issue.

During the visit, Ahmad Zahid is scheduled to pay a courtesy call to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed as well as meet with the Minister of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Workers, Nurul Islam and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to further boost Malaysia-Bangladesh ties forged and explore collaborations of mutual benefit. — Bernama