Call first, UNHCR tells asylum seekers

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 27 Aug 2003

PETALING JAYA: All foreign asylum seekers and refugees are advised to call the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur first before turning up because of the continuing police presence there that has resulted in several arrests since last Tuesday. 

UNHCR spokesman Evan Ruth said the office was reviewing the situation every morning to see what the police were doing before deciding if it could operate on a particular day. 

“We are reviewing our operational ability on a day-to-day basis.  

“We cannot credibly offer protection when there is police presence here,'' he said yesterday in a telephone interview. 

He said the UNHCR had to suspend operations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, as well as yesterday when police set up roadblocks leading to the UNHCR office from 7.20am to 11am. 

Police arrested around 50 asylum seekers and two refugees yesterday, mostly from Myanmar, Ruth said. 

He said even though Tuesday was the designated day for new applications for refugee status from Acehnese asylum seekers, many stayed away because of last week's arrests. 

“Most of those arrested today (Tuesday) were Myanmar nationals who had appointments for interviews with the UNHCR,” Ruth said, adding that Wednesday and Thursday were the designated days for other nationals. 

Last Tuesday, police arrested more than 200 asylum seekers and refugees, mostly from Aceh, as they tried to enter the UNHCR compound in Bukit Petaling. 

Ruth said 238 of those arrested last week were currently being detained at the Langkap detention camp in Perak – out of which 214 including minors had signed UNHCR's letters indicating their desire to stay in Malaysia, while twelve others had been deported. 

He said that even though Malaysia was not party to the UN Refugee Convention, all states were not supposed to force asylum seekers to return to their country of origin where there was fear of persecution. 

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Zul Hasnan Najib Baharudin classified those detained as illegal immigrants were the 50 foreigners including five women and a child could not produce any valid travel documents. 

He said the raid, which started at 7am yesterday, was part of the district's on-going crime prevention project. 

He added the illegals were picked up from various locations in the district including Bukit Petaling where the UNHCR was located.  

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