Home Ministry rejects calls for UNHCR to be given access to immigration depots


PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry has rejected calls for the UNHCR to be allowed access to immigration depots, saying that those inside had violated the country’s laws.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin also questioned the need for the UN agency to enter these depots.

“This is our country. Why do they want to enter our immigration (depots)? What is the reason?

“Don’t we know who we have detained? Those we detain are those who have committed wrongdoings under the Immigration Acts. What is the reason they want to say this is their person?” Hamzah said to a question during an online press conference on Saturday (June 5).

He said that they would release any individual who possesses a UNHCR card.

“We have never been cruel to anyone in the country. They are only supposed to be in the country temporarily. UNHCR should be here temporarily. But they have been here for more than 30 years, ” he said.

He said he would meet with UNHCR and Wisma Putra to ensure the matter did not persist much longer.

“I don’t want to fault UNHCR but I want to tell the people that they have issued more than 120,000 UNHCR cards. Shouldn’t the cards in our country be the ones issued by us... suddenly there are parties issuing identity cards, above our Registration Department.

“The people should realise some of the things happening. This is an old matter that we have to rectify now for a better future, ” he said.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has previously urged the government to allow UNHCR into these centres, saying that they have not had access to these centres since August 2019.

They said this made it difficult for them to ascertain those with a genuine need to obtain refugee status.

As of March this year, there were some 178,920 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, with the majority coming from Myanmar.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol. It lacks a legal or administrative framework to regulate the status and rights of refugees.

Refugees are considered undocumented migrants under immigration laws in Malaysia and are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.

While refugees are not allowed to work legally, many of them work informally.

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