UNHCR to Discontinue Refugee ‘Bio-Data Collection’ in Malaysia
10 July 2012: Malaysia-based UNHCR said it will stop the name-recording process of Chin refugees staying in Kuala Lumpur following allegations of fraud among some community-based organizations.
Alan Vernon, the UNHCR’s representative in Malaysia, told refugee community leaders during a meeting last Thursday that the name-listing program would not be conducted for Chin refugees because some Chin communities demanded money for what was supposed to be ‘free of charge’.
The announcement came as a shock to the Chin refugees and asylum seekers staying in Kuala Lumpur weeks after an investigation was carried out over bribery allegations against some Chin refugee communities.
UNHCR’s new program called ‘Bio-Data Collecting Exercise‘ conducted in collaboration with community-based organizations in an effort to record details of ‘undocumented’ Chin refugees ahead of a major crackdown planned by the Malaysian authorities had been suspended since 25 May 2012.
One of the Chin refugees in Kuala Lumpur told Chinland Guardian: “The majority of us will now suffer because of one or two dishonest leaders. We don’t exactly know the details of the issue but this kind of behavior must be stopped.”
Most Chin Community-based organizations in Malaysia largely operate on annual membership fees donated by individual members, which is used to provide various services to members of their communities, including protection in times of arrest and detention. But the membership fees have often been mistaken as a ‘charge to access UNHCR’ in the past.
In his speech, Alan Vernon also highlighted the fact that some Chin community-based organisations took advantage of their collaboration with the UNHCR and acted authoritatively in communicating with other refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
Details of the communities implicated in the fraud remain unknown to the public.
But a spokesperson for the Chin Refugee Committee (CRC), the largest Chin community-based organization in Malaysia, said that the UNHCR investigation has cleared his organization of any wrongdoings.
As of May this year, there are 98,644 refugees in Malaysia as registered by the UNHCR, with an estimated number of 10,000 being undocumented. Over 90 percent of the total refugee population are from Burma.
It is estimated that there are more than 45,000 Chin refugees currently staying in Malaysia.
Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang