Ministry to probe NGO selling ID cards to Rohingya

Prof Azmi Hassan said with thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here. — Reutrs pic
Prof Azmi Hassan said with thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here. — Reutrs pic

PETALING JAYA, Aug 5 — The Home Ministry will investigate the sale of identity cards by a non-governmental organisation to migrants, including those who enter the country illegally.

“This (sale of identity cards) is being done without authorised consent or permission,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.

“It is illegal for identity documents of any kind to be issued without the express permission of the government.

“Those who sell the cards as well as those who bought them were guilty of issuing or being in possession of false documents. We consider these people to be engaged in criminal activities.

“We are looking into the matter and will take appropriate action. We have not received any request to issue cards from the organisation in question.”

Nur Jazlan said even if the organisation had applied for permission and had yet to be granted approval, it was a serious offence to begin distributing such identification cards on their own accord.

“This is not a joke ... there are procedures to follow. Identity cards need to be approved, vetted and serialised to ensure they carry authentic information. Anything less is outright fraud,” he said.

Nur Jazlan said this when asked to comment on Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhom), which has been issuing identification cards to migrants, claiming it was to prevent abuse.

The NGO had issued some 100 cards in an effort to provide the ethnic minority with documentation.

Nur Jazlan said if the NGO was conducting vetting of applicants without oversight by the government, it had no value and said the group had no right to issue  identity cards.

“Stateless people have no rights in this country... much less to issue identity cards on their own and expect the government to respect it,” he said.

The NGO claimed its community was being harassed by enforcement authourities due to a lack of identification documents and this was why they issued cards on their own accord.

“These are stateless people who reside in the country illegally. I do not blame the enforcement authorities for doing their job,” Nur Jazlan said.

The government was urged to act swiftly against the NGO as it seemed to be arm-twisting authorities into recognising and absorbing ethnic Rohingya migrants.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Perdana School geo-strategist Prof Azmi Hassan said the country already faced pressure to accord benefits for those holding cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“In addition to recognition, we are now obliged to provide employment to card holders under the amended Atipsom,” he said, referring to the Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Anti-Smuggling Of Migrants Act 2010.

“The issuing of cards without the express permission of the authorities may lead to the government being forced to recognise the cards under the pretext of human rights.”

Azmi said if the cards were only for the internal use of the issuing organisation, it would not be a problem, but the fact the NGO had declared its intention to have the cards recognised was worrying.

“I believed the issuance of the cards is precursor to force the government into granting the Rohingya refugee status,” he said. 

“With thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here,” he said.

Azmi said the issue had placed the country in an awkward position and Malaysia ran the risk of becoming a scapegoat of the international community.

“No country is willing to accept the Rohingya and it is obvious Malaysia will be used as the scapegoat. There is no way to absorb them as it will strain our resources and jeopardise our security,” he said.

“Unless the international community is willing to share the responsibility, we will be burdened by the influx of Rohingya and be accused of not respecting their rights.” 

Related Articles