Malaysia bar UNHCR from issuing card to ‘walk-in refugees’
PUTRAJAYA, 20 July 2016 — Malaysia has ordered the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to stop issuing identity cards to ‘walk-in refugees’ from their office as the government want to take part in identifying genuine asylum seekers.
A Malaysian minister said refugee cards could only be issued at immigration detention camps in the country after clearance from police and immigration department.
He said the UNHCR, therefore, was no longer allowed to issue cards to ‘walk-in refugees’ at their office in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
“They must be arrested first before being taken to the UNHCR,” said Shahidan Kassim, a minister at the Prime Minister Department.
He said on Wednesday that the UNHCR would be held accountable if they continued to issue refugee cards to ‘walk-in applicants’.
He said it was a Cabinet’s decision to curb indiscriminate issuance of UNHCR cards and to stop criminals from getting the document.
The minister said it was improper for the refugee card to be issued solely by the UNHCR without the screening from Malaysian authorities.
Shahidan was citing cases of ‘ingenuine refugees’ from Burma and, according to him, the UNHCR card was only for Rohingyas and not anyone from the Southeast Asian countries.
“They (UNHCR) can’t issue these cards out to anyone who is from Myanmar (Burma). It’s only for the Rohingya,” said Shahidan as quoted by local media.
Shahidan also slammed the UNHCR for being unable to provide registered refugees with shelter and food and for letting them disturb the locals.
Besides the Rohingya who were from Arakan State, Malaysia was also home to refugees from different areas of Burma. There has been a significant number of Karen, Chin and Kachin refugees registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia.
Conflict between the Burma Army and minority rebel groups in several places in Kachin State and Shan State has still been reported even after the 2010 general elections.
The UNHCR Malaysia had registered 137,261 refugees from Myanmar, of which 52,960 are Rohingya from Arakan and 42,973 are Chin. Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. – Reporting by Thomas Chong