Malaysians seeking asylum in Australia ‘more than doubled’ this year – report
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Malaysians seeking asylum in Australia ‘more than doubled’ this year – report

CITING rising political instability, racial tensions and Islamic fundamentalism, more Malaysians are fleeing their homeland to seek asylum in Australia, a government report has revealed.

According to public broadcaster SBS, Malaysians now form staggering 43 percent of all claims for asylum in Australia. It said of the total 4,622 applications for protection visas lodged between 2015 and 2016 with the Migration Review Tribunal, 2,006 came from Malaysian nationals.

Drawing comparisons with the applications made in the 2014-2015 period, the report noted that this year’s numbers were more than double that of the previous year’s.

The bulk of the applications were made by Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese community, with many claiming they have been facing increased restrictions and persecution by their country’s predominantly Malay government and society, despite their community’s control of the commercial sector.

A Chinese Malaysian woman was quoted as telling the tribunal that the Chinese community was often neglected and not protected by the government.

“The welfare for Malays is out of reach for the Chinese, the Malaysian political field only trusts Malays, (they do) not completely trust Chinese, the government does not care about us.”

“Our family business was always disturbed by local government, our shop was searched and questioned all the time, we could not be convinced, we did not pay of the so called “fines”,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Yellow, red, orange or black, Malaysians are (generally) a peaceful lot

The applicant claimed that her family was frequently threatened and blackmailed, forcing her family to close her business and into poverty. The woman also alleged she had been fired from her job merely because she was Chinese.

“We are living like a dog, in the past, the Malaysian government kept watch on all the Chinese, if the Chinese children want to enter public school, it would be a very difficult thing almost impossible.”

Malaysia’s Malay-Muslim majority make up nearly 70 percent of the country’s 30 million-strong population while the ethnic Chinese form 25 percent and the ethnic Indians about 13 percent.

Under the country’s Constitution and the government’s affirmative action policies, the Malays enjoy special privileges and more rights compared to the other races. This has been the source of major racial tensions in the country.

Last year, a racially-driven riot broke out in the the central business district of the capital after rumours spread that a Chinese trader had conned a Malay customer in the purchase of a mobile phone. It was later determined that the Malay customer had attempted to steal the phone.

The Bersih 5 protest to call for the prime minister’s resignation on Saturday, though carried out peacefully, was marred by incidences of racial taunts and chants by Malay-controlled and pro-government counter protesters with links to the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia’s “Red Shirts” were born of ignorance

According to SBS, the tribunal had also received but rejected an application for asylum of a Chinese man and wife who claimed their business was ransacked and threatened by Malays who were “protected” by police. The couple said they received the threats for refusing to sell of their business.

“The applicant claimed that he and his family had rejected the offer and that as a result his shop was broken into and ransacked and he claimed that when he reported the incident to the police, the police did nothing,” a tribunal member said in the judgement.

“He claimed that his family had also received threatening letters and that he had reported that to the police and he claimed the police again did not investigate the matter. He claimed that the Malaysian authorities would not protect Chinese against Muslim people.”

Dr Jean Jonathon Bogais, according to Foreign Affairs and Human Rights expert from the University of Sydney, was quoted as saying that the rise in asylum seekers among Malaysians was due to ongoing tensions between the Malay population and other minorities, particularly the Chinese minority.

“All they see is fear for the future; economic political and security concerns which is probably the biggest justification for the migration,” Dr Bogais said.

“A large segment of the Muslim community in Malaysia wants to look to secularism, but this is very strongly opposed by a radical (Islamic) element of the community.”

The Australian government has in recent years gradually limited options for permanent migration via other avenues such as skilled visas. SBS also cited latest statistics of the number of Malaysians dropping by 28 percent of those relocating to Australia under other migration options since 2012.

Dr Bogais said the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund scandal which has implicated the prime minister, has also contributed to the political instability in the country after it was revealed that US$681 million was deposited into his personal account.

“This economic division along sectarian and ethnic lines has existed for a long time but what we are experiencing now is we are looking at much more unstable political environment,” he said, as quoted by the SBS.