No decision yet on whether refugees can work, says Kula

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 09 Jan 2020

SUBANG JAYA: The government has not yet decided whether refugees would be allowed to work in the country, says M. Kulasegaran (pic).

The Human Resources Minister said on Thursday (Jan 9) that a high-level committee comprising a few ministries was looking into the issue.

"It isn't as easy as allowing refugees to work. There are a lot of other issues. Most importantly, it comes under the Home Ministry," he said during a question-and-answer session at a forum on employment on Thursday (Jan 9).

He added that they would be convening a few meetings and discuss the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In November last year, Kulasegaran told the Dewan Rakyat that he believed a decision on the matter would be made between Dec 10 and 15 after a committee to discuss the matter was set up.

"The other aspect is we haven't signed the treaties, so how do we address these issues?" asked Kulasegaran, adding that this was an important matter.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol, and lacks a legal or administrative framework regulating the status and rights of refugees, who are considered undocumented migrants under the Immigration Act, and are at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation.

He said both his ministry and the Home Ministry had been assigned to conduct a thorough study on the matter before sending it to the committee for consideration, which will then forwarded to the Cabinet for approval.

"In essence, it is being looked into seriously, to find an answer how to overcome this issue," he said.

As of November last year, there were more than 178,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. The majority are adults aged 18-59 and males.

While refugees are not allowed to work legally, many work in informal sectors in so-called 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) jobs.

According to the UNHCR, most work in the horticulture, agriculture, construction, and cleaning sectors.

In its manifesto for the 14th General Election (GE14) in May last year, Pakatan Harapan said that it would ratify the 1951 International Convention on refugees so that refugees arriving in Malaysia were given proper assistance.

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Kulasegaran , refugees , UNHCR


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