KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling for a codified procedure on asylum-seekers in Malaysia as civil strife in Aceh intensifies.
According to UNHCR protection officer Shinji Kubo, the number of asylum-seekers had risen from 500 to 10,000 during the past three years. More than 5,000 were from the troubled Indonesian province.
The remainder were mostly Rohingyas, Mons and Karen minorities from Myanmar (about 4,500) and a small portion from Africa and the Middle East.
Refugees, as defined by the United Nations, are persons living outside their countries in fear of prosecution and are unable to return.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and no legislation currently exists which differentiates an illegal immigrant from a refugee.
“Sometimes the authorities refer them to us to determine whether they are economic migrants or refugees, but the current procedure to deal with asylum seekers is on an ad hoc basis,” Kubo said at the UN headquarters here yesterday.
UNHCR has to date issued 5,000 temporary protection letters to Acehnese asylum-seekers which are generally recognised as a binding document for their stay in Malaysia.