KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa expressed surprise after a Malay Mail report highlighted scores of refugees who have been rendered homeless amid an ongoing immigration operation to weed out undocumented migrants.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Annuar said those who are recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should be allowed to rent, and not be evicted.
“I’m surprised. There is nothing wrong if UNHCR card holders are renting houses. They should be allowed to do so,” Annuar said when contacted last night.
Beyond Borders founder Mahi Ramakhrisnan, a non-governmental organisation that has been helping refugees here, told Malay Mail yesterday that her organisation was helping 100 refugees who were suddenly told by their landlords to vacate their rented homes on Friday, following a warning from the Immigration Department.
She said her network is working together to find shelter for the refugees as the majority of those being chased out are UNHCR cardholders.
“Lumping the refugees and undocumented migrants in the same group does not make sense.
“There need to be clear distinction between refugees and undocumented immigrants by the government and these people should be allowed to rent the place to live here,” she said.
Another refugee rights advocate Hanif Mahfa fears such tactics by the authorities may result in a rise in anti-refugee sentiments, on top of making refugees lose their refuge.
He claimed homeowners are being forced to evict their refugee tenants as the law does not distinguish between refugees and undocumented migrants.
Malay Mail sighted a notice by the Federal Territories’ Immigration Department, that said it had received reports of undocumented migrants in several areas and would take action against owners who rent out their properties to these people as Section 55E of the Immigration Act 1959/63 (amendment 2002) makes it an offence to allow “illegal immigrants” into their premises.
First offenders can be fined a minimum of RM5,000 up to RM30,000, or jailed up to 12 months, or both while subsequent offenders face a fine of not less than RM10,000 up to RM60,000, or jail up to two years, or both. The punishment is subject to each “illegal immigrant found at the premises”.
Malay Mail had contacted the Immigration Department for comment on Friday.