Malaysian police arrest 46 Chin refugees

Jan 28, 2008 (DVB), Forty-six ethnic Chin refugees from Burma were arrested by Malaysian police and immigration officials in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, the Chin Refugee Committee in Malaysia said.

Six girls and two toddlers aged around two years were among those detained.

Paul Lian of the CRC said that the refugees were arrested at around 4am on Friday, even though they were holding documents proving their refugee status, issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We have to be very careful in the current climate. The elections are drawing near and the Malaysian government is getting stricter on foreigners," said Lian.

"Unfortunately, refugees are being included in this as well," he said.

Lian said these were the first arrests made so far in 2008.

He added that the Malaysian police would release the refugees if they had assistance from UNHCR, but otherwise they would be sent back to the Thai-Malaysian border where they could face a number of problems.

"If the Malaysian government sends these people back to the Thai border, they are going to need money to come back here," Lian said.

"Sometimes, human traffickers sell the refugees to work on fishing boats if they don't have any money."

The refugees are currently being held at the Kuala Lumpur police station.

The Chin Human Rights Organization in Malaysia wrote a letter to the Malaysian government on Friday appealing for the release of the detained refugees.

Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the key legal document on the rights of refugees and obligations of states.

Reporting by Saw Kanyaw

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