UNHCR hopes Malaysia will ratify Geneva convention

  • Nation
  • Friday, 18 Jun 2004

KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hopes that Malaysia will ratify the 1951 Geneva Convention pertaining to the status of asylum-seekers to deal more effectively with issues related to refugees here. 

The UNHCR head in Malaysia, Volker Turk, said Malaysia would be able to directly determine the status of displaced people seeking temporary asylum here if it ratified the convention. 

“At present we conduct refugee status determination here on our own mandate.  

“If Malaysia ratified the convention, it would be the one determining whether they were refugees or economic migrants,” Turk told reporters in a press conference yesterday. 

So far only Timor Leste, Cambodia, the Philippines and China have ratified the convention in this region. 

The press conference was initiated to convey the UNHCR’s message to commemorate World Refugee Day on Sunday. 

He added that his organisation was in constant dialogue with the Malaysian authorities to facilitate the handling of refugees before it is safe for them to go back to their countries of origin. 

“Ideally, the UNHCR wants to come to a common understanding with Malaysia on how to look at the issue and seek a practical solution to the problems faced by asylum-seekers,” he added.  

Currently, there are about 10,000 Myanmar residents from the northern Rakhine state and 7,000 people from the Indonesian province of Aceh seeking temporary protection in Malaysia. 

He said UNHCR was confident that Malaysia would co-operate in providing temporary protection to those two groups until the situation in their countries of origin changed. 

Turk said that since the numbers were small, the asylum-seekers should be engaged in activities which could contribute positively to the nation instead of being confined to a camp-like environment.  

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