UNHCR unable to stop refugee card counterfeits

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has no control over fake refugee cards being circulated, saying that the market exists as refugee status is not given out easily.

UNHCR Malaysia representative Richard Towle said that they had issued about 158,000 cards and that it was possible to replicate features of a legitimate card to make a fake.

Towle said a card featured in a recent news report was fake, as its details did not match that in their database.

"Somebody in the community has paid money to get a false card, it has nothing to do with the UNHCR," Towle told The Star Online.

He said that they could tell the difference between the fake cards and genuine cards.

Towle said that UNHCR had robust and rigorous procedures to decide on a person's refugee status, adding that their card system was controlled very tightly.

He said that they collected biometric data such as fingerprints and even retinal scans.

"We have procedures so the most vulnerable people get our help as quickly as possible," he said adding that they were in the process of strengthening the security and integrity of their card system.

Towle added they were not concerned about the number of cards issued, saying that it was more important that it was issued to those who actually needed protection.

He said that local authorities could verify if a UNHCR card was genuine via the Internet or by calling a hotline, and added that they had a high degree of cooperation with the Government.

As of end February 2016, there are some 158,510 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia with about 145,000 of them from Myanmar.

There are another 14,120 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Somalia, Syrian, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Iran.

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