In June, our Crossroads video collection on migration was screened for the 15th time in Malaysia this year. The screening was hosted by the Migrant Ministry under the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese Office of Human Development and attended by Malaysian parishioners of the Good Shepard Church.
Malaysia is one of the top destinations for migrant workers in Asia, where there are an estimated two million documented and two million undocumented migrant workers, according to a recent UN report. With limited coverage by the mainstream media and growing xenophobia, Crossroads screenings such as this one to an all-local audience provide good opportunities to foster empathy and understanding.
An extensive discussion was held after the five selected films, which began with how the current system of oppression faced by migrants is unlikely to stop as it benefits many groups such as agents, enforcement officers and related business entities.
There was a question from the floor on whether the videos could be used as evidence or basis for police reports. It was explained by Fajar from migrant rights NGO Tenaganita that hard evidence such as documents, photographs and medical reports are needed, although reports can nonetheless still be lodged.
One of the audience members shared that she worked in a factory and even though all the workers there had legal documents, they were still harassed. And when they tried to lodge a police report, they were told that the online reporting system at the police station was coincidentally offline.
The discussion then shifted to refugees and asylum seekers, where Fajar explained the difference and overlap between migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees.
He added that although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was allowed to operate in Malaysia, they are also in a weak position because Malaysia has not ratified the UN Convention on Refugees. This means that the country does not officially recognise or accept asylum seekers and refugees and so is not required by law to provide medical, educational or any other facilities to the tens of thousands who are currently stateless there.