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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Malaysia Aceh policy criticised
By Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur

Elderly Acehnese woman in a refugee camp
Malaysia does not recognise international treaties on refugees
An international human rights group has criticised Malaysia for its treatment of people fleeing fighting in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Thousands of would-be refugees have entered Malaysia since Indonesia launched military operations against Acehnese separatists last May.

A new report by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch accuses Malaysia of mistreating asylum seekers.

It says the country sends them back to face possible death in Indonesia.

Malaysia does not recognise international treaties on refugees and treats asylum seekers as illegal immigrants.

Last August, hundreds of Acehnese were arrested while trying to register with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, many were sent back to Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch has published claims that some of those deported were arrested and killed and the group accuses Malaysia of breaking international law by placing returnees in danger.

Protection

Its report also accuses the Malaysian authorities of mistreating Acehnese in custody and claims police officers raid and burn the homes of migrants and extort money from them.

The group is calling on Malaysia to offer refugees proper protection.

Malaysian officials say the country is making efforts to improve its human rights record.

In a reorganisation of government last weekend, its official human rights body was made directly answerable to the Prime Minister.

As a stable country in a troubled region, Malaysia fears being swamped by refugees trying to escape danger in neighbouring states, however diplomats say that though the country's public stand against refugees is uncompromising, a blind eye is turned to thousands of Indonesians, Burmese and Filipinos who make Malaysia their home.


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