Refugee Rights Month with Amnesty Club

When we mention the word refugee, it refers to a person who has been forced to leave their country of origin in order to escape war, persecution or even a natural disaster.

We have heard stories and struggles of families having escaped from a war-torn country, only to end up as refugees in another, where they are not legally recognised or acknowledged.

We even have refugees close to home, such as the Rohingya community. These individuals are those that have escaped the persecution they went through in Cambodia, only to find a safe place here in Malaysia.

BAC's Amnesty Club recently organised a Refugee Rights Month, to educate and shed light on some issues faced by refugees around the world.

Throughout the month of August, two major events were held to highlight two main groups of people without proper homes: the stateless and refugees. Though these two sometimes overlap, there are differences in the struggles these people face.

On 6th August 2022, Amnesty BAC held "No Way Home: Statelessness in Malaysia." This event detailed the issue of statelessness happening right here at our doorstep. This was a timely event, and especially a crucial one, with the decision made in the courts just the day before, stating that Malaysian mothers will not be allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children.

The event kicked-off with the screening of a short film entitled 'The State of Statelessness,' produced by a non-profit organisation, Kource. The film followed a young man named Lancelot who grew up as a stateless child in Malaysia. He spoke about his experience growing up as a Malaysian, to only have his heart shattered, when he received a red IC at the age of 14. The film also explained the meaning of statelessness and the different types of statelessness in Malaysia.

A panel discussion on statelessness in Malaysia then took place.

Ms. Corina from Family Frontiers, and Ms. Maalini from Development of Human Resources in Rural Area (DHRRA) Malaysia were invited to speak.

The panel, moderated by Mr. Nathan, a member of Kource and a lecturer at BAC, spoke about the hardships faced by stateless children and their parents, and how at times Malaysians take cheap healthcare and free textbooks for granted, as these are inaccessible to children from the refugee community.

As refugees battle with their struggles and face mental toll, we are called to fight for their rights to exist, just as we do, as citizens of a country.

The mission to raise awareness did not end there. On 13th August, Amnesty Club held a film screening and 'open mic' to further raise awareness on the plight of refugees. The event was called 'No Longer Human.'

The event started off with a film screening about the rampant culture of buying child brides by the refugee community in Malaysia. It shed light on patriarchal norms that still exist within our society and the need to protect and empower women and young girls to prevent this from happening.

Following the film screening, Ms. Renuka, a law lecturer from Universiti Malaya, gave a detailed and digestible breakdown of the status quo of refugee related laws in Malaysia. She also spoke on underlying policy issues that needed to be addressed for better governance on the procedures and rights to enhance protection for refugees.

Next, the open-mic session took place. It was a moving session where refugees and and those working with them were given a chance to speak on the adversities faced by the community. There were speakers from Refugee Network Centre, Rohingya Project, ElShaddai Centre and Amnesty International Malaysia, who spoke on things such as inaccessibility in the legal and medical field for refugees, as well as political issues which make refugees into victims of many countries' agendas. It was an eye-opening session that changed the mindset of many attendees.

Although Amnesty BAC wrapped up their Refugee Rights Month, by no means should we stop caring about the plight of the stateless and refugees. Now is the time to act in order to give these people a chance at a normal life.

If you are interested in what Amnesty BAC does and has to say, find out more on their social media.