Home 2008: 4 Refugee voices

Refugee voices

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It’s not often we get to hear refugees speak for themselves about the circumstances that forced them to flee from their homeland and their plight in Malaysia. Here are stories from three refugees, edited only for spelling and punctuation.

A vulnerable woman’s life

I was working as a primary school teacher in a village in Burma near the border area of Thailand. Inevitably, to avoid the sexual harassment by the military soldiers, I fled to Thailand. I borrowed some money to pay agent fees from the head of village.

There, in Thailand, again, I was cheated by the agents, saying that I have to work as a house maid.

Actually, I have been sold to the massage centre to be a sex worker. As I bitterly refused to do the sex work and I have been kicked by the employer all night long. Due to my deep apology with tears, the agent had taken me to Malaysia to leave the sex worker work.

After reaching to Malaysia, I was sent to a restaurant to work as a dish washer. From morning 8.00am to night 11.00pm, I had to work – 15 hrs per day. Rather than a sex worker, I prefer to do any hard works.

But I got salary only RM 600 per month – without any day off. From my salary, RM100 pay for the police collected by the boss, RM100 for my food, RM100 for my room rent. With the remaining RM300, I had to send back to my country to pay my debt, till I clear my dues.

At work, I have to tackle smart, not to be sexual harassed by the boss and the male workers. I dare not wear pretty clothes and do my beauty, dare not apply lipstick and makeup, as our Burmese ladies used to do.

Actually, I am not so happy to stay like this. Sometimes, I miss my mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters. I can only cry secretly, never let them know my troubles.

Without a proper document, daily, I have to avoid from the police and Relas. One day, before sending money, I have been caught by a police, and the money, to send home was bribed to police to be released..

When sleeping at night, I can’t have sound sleep. The sound of horns or screaming voice interrupt my sleep. Along working hours already made me weak, this fear of police and Relas double me to get a heartache.

The worry to pay my debt also increases my blood pressure. I am full of stress and tension. If, I am sick who is taking care of me? No extra money in my hands.

Before resettling in third country, for temporary, I want to work in Malaysia, to pay my debt and for my survival. .I cannot go home at the moment. I pray for Malaysia government, Relas, immigration officers and the police to have mercy on us!

Please, only your help we need is o not arrest us.


Life of fear in Malaysia

At one night in Johor Construction site,

“Dong! Dong! Dong!” (Banging at the door)

Oh God! Who is knocking at the door? Please, God, keep away from us all harms and dangers!

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(from outside) “Hurry up! Open the door! Otherwise, you all will be killed!?

“Shhhhhhhhh!” whispering each other in fear. “Shall we open?” “No, Yes… No, Yes,” arguing each other,

At last, “Wong!” A big noise has come out and the door was broken by the rowdies.

Oh! They are gangsters, looking so strong and wild, holding long, sharp knives and ropes, rods to beat. Tied up all our hands at back with ropes and asked us to lie down facing to the floor. All we are seven persons, but no one was able to response, bearing in silence.

“Show us, where did you keep all your money!” a chief gangster shouted.

They knew that we have got our salaries recently, in the afternoon; we could not remit money to our home yet. At night time, the gangsters, came to rob all our salaries, kicked on our back, our shoulders, and slapped at our faces, then took all our money all together about RM8,000, including seven cellular phones. Luckily, they did not kill us.

We cannot go and complain to the police because we don’t have any documents. If we go and complain, police will arrest us even we have UN documents.

The worst is we have informed our parents already that by tomorrow we will be sending money back home! Now our parents will be expecting to receive money; how do we inform them? If they know the truth, they will be so worried about our stay, working condition in Malaysia.

Please, our lives are so bad, to work, to earn, to stay, and to sleep, nothing is secure. We feared of our brutal government and we fled. We had been threaten by the agents on the way of trafficking.

We have been humiliated and exploited by our employers, working in dangerous work, getting only very less salaries. We are in fear of arrest by Relas and police. We are in danger of being robbed by gangsters.

Don’t you have pity on us? Please, we are also human beings, we are not criminals. We are working so hard. Our sweat has fallen from forehead to our toe, don’t bother at all even we are so hard in dangerous, dirty and difficult works.

We work sincere; we stay simple; we do not commit any crimes.

We thank you for giving us space to stay on your soil for temporary shelter. May God bless you for this. We would like to help you by giving our services and working so hard for you while the locals cannot do as much as we do.

For a kind response, please, help us by not arresting us. Release us if we are detained!

(a very pitiful construction worker)

A wish and a prayer of a 12-year-old refugee boy

I am 12 years old boy. My name is ZT. I came from Burma three months ago. Living in Kuala Lumpur with my parents for temporary, I want to resettle down in other country instead of going back to Burma.

I see almost everyday raids taking place around Kota Raya. Its make me feel shocked since I saw the first time. I am not happy at all. You can imagine how a life of a fearing child could be happy.

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When I woke up early in the morning, as I know I am still safe, not being arrested last night, thank to God for letting me sleep well all night long!

When I see some children in school uniform, going to school, I envy them too much; I wish to go to school like them to learn.

When I see some children are playing in the playground harmlessly, I wish I could enjoy of playing like them in the public garden!

When I see some children are enjoying of eating chicken fried and ice cream, my mouth is watering, I wish I could eat so. If I ask my mom to buy, she would buy me, but, we have to save for food for tomorrow, as we have short of stock.

Sometimes, I feel like wearing beautiful and fancy dress to be charming. But, I feel pity on my dear refugee friends they would feel sad if they cannot wear like me. I will wear occasionally, like Christmas time only.

I have some Malaysian playmates, local friends, but, they dare not deal with me free. They seem to be conscious not to mix up with us all the time. I feel so sad on this situation. I wish I could move the partition between us.

When I was not well, my mother took me to nearby hospital. But when the receptionist denied me as we could not show any IC card/ passports, my fever went up. Because I felt angry; are we not human beings? Thank God, today we can go to ACTs clinic for health problem. I wish we have some more clinics in other areas that run for refugee health assistance. Because it is very crowded with one clinic.

When I see Relas and Immigration authorities are chasing, beating and arresting our people from hidden place, I hate them. They looked like the evils/devils as in the ghost movies. They looked so cruel and inhuman. I wish they disappear in the country. They are dangerous to our refugee people. It will be so good if they are not seen anywhere.

When I see the agents, I feel that they are money hungry monsters. They don have any pity on us. They are threatening us all the time, on the way of trafficking. The word is still haunting me: “You will be killed if we don’t get money from your parents for bringing you to Malaysia.”

I wish all the smugglers, gangsters and the pickpockets abolished in Malaysia – because they are those who are harmful to us after Relas.

I wish my parents, my sisters, and all of the adults of refugee people can work peacefully so that we can earn money for our daily lives.

I wish the employers treat my parents and other workers well, and pay money regularly, so that problems in our societies will be lessen.

My mother asked me to pray for Malaysia Government to amend/redress their policies to be a well comprehensive one, so that all human being will enjoy their full human rights. The refugees also will be protected by the protection of human rights on the other hand.

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I wish our government of Myanmar also change their stony hearts, grow their pity and not to be cruel to our people and have some reforms in our country.

I special pray for the UNHCR and NGOs who help us, to get more blessings for helping the refugees with all their good kind hearts. I believe there is special place for them in the kingdom.

Finally, I pray for the real peace for the whole world, so that no fights, wars, and all the people of the world will be happy always without fears and tears.

This is all my wish and prayer special for all:

God bless to all! And to the whole world. Decorate their hearts with kindness, sympathy; justice and forgiveness. Fulfill their hearts with Love, Peace and Joy.

Please, Lord, hear my little prayer for my people. Amen


The campaign

From 1 May to 20 June, the refugees will be writing letters of appeal to several key individuals -Abdullah Badawi, Zaid Ibrahim, and the Chief Ministers of states (and the equivalent Minister for Kuala Lumpur). They are committing to writing (at least) three letters a week for seven weeks.

Malaysians are being asked to show their support for these efforts,by picking up one of these letters and reading them aloud every time they appear before a crowd. This only takes a couple of minutes of their airtime. We are approaching as many people as we can. We are asking prominent people – musicians, artists, singers, public intellectuals as well as ordinary folk – those of us who meet in small groups, in churches, schools, etc. – to read these letters aloud.

Reading their letters will give the refugees tremendous encouragement. As the weeks roll by and as we get closer to 20 June, it is hoped that bloggers will post some of these letters on their blogs and websites. Civil society groups will also be asked to commit to letter-writing as well – also (at least) three letters per person, over seven weeks, so we can lend our voices to those of the refugees.

The hope is that these efugee letters?will just keep appearing everywhere, out of nowhere, every time an event happens. Let us be witnesses to the suffering of those who live in our own cities.

For real stories of refugees in Malaysia, see http://fiftyrefugees.wordpress.com/

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The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
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