Home Ministry: Don’t make demands, Rohingya groups here illegal and can face action

Rohingya refugees are seen at a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara
Rohingya refugees are seen at a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Any organisations representing the Rohingya community in Malaysia are invalid by law and will face government action as the Registrar of Societies had never registered any such organisations, the Home Ministry insisted today.

It also reiterated that Malaysia does not recognise the community as refugees but merely “illegal immigrants”, even if they hold the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identification cards, and therefore have no rights to make demands to Putrajaya.

“Besides that, the Home Ministry’s checks found that the Registrar of Societies has never registered organisations under the name of Rohingya or any ethnic Rohingya in Malaysia.

“Therefore, any organisations that represent ethnic Rohingya in Malaysia are invalid under the Societies Act 1966 (Act 335) and can have taken action against them according to legal provisions,” minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said in a statement.

“Therefore UNHCR card holders from ethnic Rohingya have no status, right and basis to present any demands to the government,” it added.

The harsh statement by the ministry comes even as refugee activists are urging the government and public to show compassion towards the community, that is currently facing heightened vitriol through a purported social media campaign.

The remark also came amid alleged provocations by members of the community, even as the police have already opened investigations against such posts which the community said are part of a disinformation campaign targeting them.

In the same statement today, Hamzah said there are 179,521 UNHCR cardholders in Malaysia as of March, including 56.6 per cent or 101,584 from the Rohingya community here.

But Hamzah also said that Malaysia does not have any administrative or legal framework to govern the status and rights of refugees in the country, and that Malaysia is also not a signatory to the United Nations’ Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 or Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees 1967.

“Therefore, the government does not recognise the status of refugees and have classified them as illegal immigrants (PATI) that hold the UNHCR card.

“However, on a humanitarian basis, the government has allowed PATI holding UNHCR cards to temporarily stay in this country before being placed in a third country by the UNHCR on a case-by-case basis,” he added, insisting on using the term “illegal immigrants” for those recognised as refugees by the UNHCR.

Hamzah said the Home Ministry through its agencies and departments are committed to ensuring public peace, further saying that any UNHCR cardholders who threaten the public peace or act in contravention to local laws would not escape action.

Hamzah said the police had during the movement control order (MCO) period received 19 police reports relating to UNHCR cardholders from the Rohingya community which resulted in four investigation papers being opened, adding that two individuals who are citizens of Myanmar are expected to be brought to court on charges of being involved with a syndicate to smuggle “PATI with UNHCR cards” into Malaysia.

He also reminded UNHCR cardholders in Malaysia to continue to respect and comply with local laws.

Hamzah also touched on the Malaysian authorities’ recent act of turning away a boat with those from the Rohingya community after giving them food, saying that this was to protect the country’s borders that have now been closed to foreigners amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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