Rights Groups Question Malaysia-Burma Refugee Swap Plan

Posted October 19th, 2011 at 3:15 am (UTC-5)
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Lawyers and human rights groups are calling for close scrutiny of a plan under which Malaysia and Burma would exchange potentially hundreds of illegal immigrants.

Malaysia's home minister announced agreement in principle on the plan this week, saying there are about 1,000 Burmese being held at detention centers in Malaysia.

But the Malaysian rights group Suaram warned Wednesday that some Burmese citizens might be sent back to a country where their lives could be in danger. It called for assurances the government will not return anyone who is at risk of official persecution.

Malaysia's bar association also called for close monitoring of the plan to make sure there are no human rights violations. It noted that both countries have been criticized for their treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

It is not clear how many Malaysians are being held in Burma. But the home minister said the measure would help to reduce the number of people in Malaysia's crowded detention camps.

Malaysia previously negotiated a plan to send 4,000 approved asylum-seekers to Australia in exchange for 800 detainees whose applications are still being processed. That plan was struck down by Australia's top court.