Thursday, July 02, 2009

Slavery Listed as Factor for Worst Places for Refugees in USCRI's World Refugee Survey

Last month, the United States Committee for Immigrants and Refugees (USCRI) released its annual World Refugee Survey. This is one of the most comprehensive sources of information on the situation facing refugees worldwide, including statistical and qualitative data on the number of refugees, where they are currently located and where they are from. The report also includes a section on "Best & Worst Places for Refugees", which discusses places that have made significant changes to accomodate refugees and their familes and places where refugees suffer from serious discrimination, lack of protection and/or physical violence.

In this year's report
, Malaysia is listed as one of the worst places for refugees specifically because there is evidence that refugees are often turned away and sold into slavery:

"Malaysian immigration officials continued to sell deportees to gangs that operate along the Malaysia-Thailand border. The gang members extort bribes from the deportees in exchange for smuggling them back into Malaysia, and sell those who cannot pay into slavery. Men frequently end up on Thai fishing boats, women in brothels, and children with gangs who exploit child beggars. At least 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers were among the deportees in 2008. Malaysia’s RELA, a volunteer immigration enforcement militia, continued to engage in violent raids against undocumented foreigners in the country, and immigration officials caned at least six refugees—one of them a minor—for immigration violations."

Refugees are sometimes a population that receives less attention, particularly in the media, when it comes to discussing victims of human trafficking. Their vulnerability and struggle to survive make them perfect targets for traffickers, who exploit the isolation and desperation faced by refugees to gain profits. This is not a problem that is only specific to Malaysia; however without proper protection and, worse in this situation, with the sanction of government and law enforcement officials, refugees will continue to fall prey to slavery.

You can
find more information about UNHCR and their resources related to refugees and human trafficking here.

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