June 28 - Malaysia and Australia are considering a controversial swap of refugees for asylum-seekers that activists say is wrong. Lindsey Parietti reports.
Joseph Peng Ceu and his family are among thousands of refugees living in a country that doesn't recognise them. They fled a military dictatorship in Myanmar and received UN refugee status here in Malaysia, but are hiding from authorities who do not distinguish them from illegal migrants. Now, they could become part of a controversial refugee swap. Malaysia is negotiating with Australia to send 4000 registered refugees to resettle there. In exchange, Australia will send 800 asylum-seekers to the country - a move that aims to cope with the influx of boat migrants. The chairman of a Malaysian human rights organisation equated the deal to human trafficking and raised concerns that the 800 may face human rights violations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHAIRMAN OF HUMAN RIGHTS NGO, TENAGANITA, IRENE FERNANDEZ SAYING: "Australia is not at all facilitating a process whereby Malaysia should move towards the protection of the rights of refugees. That is... for me, wrong. Ceu is wary of the politics behind the deal, but also afraid of staying in Malaysia. (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malaysia) 36-YEAR-OLD MYANMAR REFUGEE JOSEPH PENG CEU, SAYING: "When my child grows up he has to live in terror like me, sometimes we are questioned by the police. They said this is a UN (United Nations) card you can't use it (for identification). We're living in a place that doesn't recognise us… They don't recognise us, then why should we stay here? If I could, I would have gone home." Malaysia hosts 93,000 registered refugees, but has not signed up to the UN convention requiring countries to protect their rights. The trade was agreed upon in May but no timetable has been set. Lindsey Parietti, Reuters