KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — Datuk Hamzah Zainudin said today Putrajaya will look into the status of refugees residing in Malaysia under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), saying it has no idea how its registration card works.
The home minister also does not agree that the UNHCR card is a legitimate document identifying the refugees, even as it allows them to take on odd jobs although without any access to education and social security.
“The UNCHR cards used by them is something that sometimes we ourselves do not understand [how it works].
"The number of refugees is supposed to have remained static, but it keeps on increasing over time. That is causing a problem in the country, as raised by Arau MP,” he said in Parliament, referring Umno’s Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.
"So we will leave this to Wisma Putra and we will review their status in our country," he added in his winding up speech after the debate on the Royal Address, referring to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah had then asked Hamzah to respond whether the government is willing to help the refugees in terms of access to education and social security aspects.
In reply, Hamzah said the UNHCR card is not recognised by Putrajaya.
“They are also humans, I understand that we should help. I agree with that. But they must have a legitimate document, something which we ourselves can accept,” he said.
When pressed by Maria for a timeline, Hamzah said this issue should have been rectified years ago, but he claimed that the number of refugees in the country has kept on increasing.
Hamzah was also responding to Shahidan, who claimed that the presence of the United Nations agency in Malaysia is questionable.
Shahidan alleged that the UNHCR cards would be freely issued to those who apply for them at the agency’s headquarters in the capital.
"You need to investigate the UNHCR card and only allow the Immigration Department to issue the cards.
"Now, they only need to appear at the UNHCR office, and even without documents they can get a card," Shahidan claimed, but did not provide any evidence to back his accusation.
This comes as last month, activists said 100 refugees were suddenly told by their landlords to vacate their rented homes, following a warning from the Immigration Department.
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.
As of the end of June this year, there are reportedly 177,940 refugees and asylum seekers registered under the care of the UNCHR in Malaysia.
Malaysia is however not a signatory to the 1951 International Convention on Refugees, which means that Malaysia has no legal or administrative framework governing refugee status and rights in the country.
Since the crackdown on undocumented migrants in May due to accusations that these are groups of people who we're responsible of spreading the Covid-19 virus due to their living conditions, the government has arrested and deported foreign citizens who do not have legal documentation.