KUALA LUMPUR: Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin has called for improved management of refugees in Malaysia.
She suggested creating a model where the refugee situation can be better managed and monitored, with housing and workplaces in their own designated areas.
"We do not want them (refugees) to be victimised. There are some crimes taking place, some theft, and the first finger-pointing will be at these groups (refugees).
"They shouldn't be made scapegoats. I think it is high time we improve our management of this group of people. They are also human, " said Zuraida, who is also Ampang MP and PKR vice-president.
"They know that they are at our mercy. Therefore, I am sure they will behave themselves, " she said, adding that the community just needed to be acclimatised to the Malaysian lifestyle.
Acknowledging there were calls by some members of the public to prioritise Malaysians over assisting refugees, Zuraida said that Malaysia may not yet be mature enough in addressing the situation, and there was a need to engage with the refugee community.
She added that she has conducted dialogue sessions within her constituency in Ampang where refugees and officers from the police, customs and immigration were brought together.
This was to ensure that refugees understand the role of these officers in ensuring public security and so that they do not feel afraid of the authorities, she said on the last day of the Mercy Malaysia International Humanitarian Conference 2019 (MMIHC2019) in Sunway University on Wednesday (Aug 7).
On Tuesday (Aug 6), while officiating the MMIHC2019, Perak's Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah said that rather than remaining passive recipients of assistance, refugees could become a highly productive resource to their host countries.
Meanwhile on Monday (Aug 5), Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said that the government had yet to make a final decision on whether to allow refugees to work in Malaysia.
The minister said that what was mentioned in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto should not be overlooked and that refugees should be allowed employment.
MMIHC19, which kicked off Monday, hosted eminent speakers and individuals involved in humanitarian issues from across the world.
An estimated 400 participants are attending the conference, which featured 50 foreign and 50 local speakers.