By Robin Augustin, Free Malaysia Today

Charles Santiago says education and jobs for refugees will reduce the need for foreign workers.

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the government to take concrete action to help Rohingya refugees in the country improve their lives.

Speaking to FMT, he said the dire situation faced by the Rohingya and other refugees in the country was a long way from being resolved and that no amount of meetings and conferences would help.

He was reacting to a Reuters article which highlighted the plight of the refugees, who are in limbo because they don’t have formal refugee status.

He said Putrajaya should at least ratify the United Nation’s Convention on Refugees quickly.
“The missing ingredient in this crisis is the lack of political will on the part of relevant governments in the region, including the Malaysian government,” he added.

He said there was a lot that Putrajaya could do to make the lives of the refugees easier, and one of the most important steps it should take was to give them opportunities for employment and education.

Refugee employment, he said, could help reduce the number of migrant workers in the country, and not only in dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs.

“If we provide them with education opportunities, we could then employ them to fill vacancies which require skilled work,” he said, adding that refugees were known to excel in countries where they had been settled.

Employment and education for the refugees would not only reduce the need for Malaysia to look outside for its human resource needs, but also ensure that the refugees would become self-sustaining, he added.

Santiago said there was often a fear that refugees would not want to leave the country if the government gave them employment and education opportunities.

However, he said, those who had such a fear must recognise that the refugees had nowhere else to go or any resources to enable them to go elsewhere.

“If they cannot work, they will definitely be stuck here,” he said. “But if they work, they could become assets.”

There are some 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, many of whom are Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to escape poverty, discrimination and persecution.