Hamzah urges UN body to speed up resettling refugees

PUTRAJAYA: Only less than two per cent of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cardholders are resettled to a third country each year, prompting the government to ask the international body to improve the situation.

Between 2017 and to date, a total of 9,047 UNHCR card holders in Malaysia were involved in the resettlement programme.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin (pic) said the slow process of resettlement was perhaps due to difficulties in getting countries willing to take them in.

“However, we hope the international body will do more to help these people so that they can undergo resettlement and start afresh,” he told The Star.

According to records provided by the UNHCR to the Home Ministry, a total of 2,631 out of 152,326 or 1.73% of UNHCR cardholders here were resettled to a third country in 2017.

In 2018, the international body had managed to help 2,407 out of 163,864 refugees (1.47%) for resettlement while in 2019, the resettlement rate was 1.6% or 2,850 out of 178,589 cardholders in the country.

In 2020, the percentage of resettlement was 0.54% or 971 out 178,613 refugees here while for this year, 188 had been repatriated to date.

Out of the 179,383 UNHCR card holders currently in Malaysia, a chunk of it – 102,842 are Rohingya.

Immigration authorities recently said that Malaysia faced difficulties in repatriating Rohingya refugees as other countries, including Myanmar, are not willing to take them in.

Hamzah pointed out that it is important for the ministry to know the exact number of UNHCR cardholders in the country so that the government can better plan making arrangements.

“If we have the exact numbers, then we can take the card holders into consideration. For example, when we plan for development, we can determine who we can rope in to help us grow the economy. This will be a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.

The minister said that although Malaysia does not recognise the refugee status of any group, including Rohingya, the government has, on humanitarian grounds, allowed UNHCR cardholders to stay temporarily before being resettled.

“It is not that the government is being inhumane. I have been to Rakhine state and seen the conditions there. Having said that, we have laws which need to be adhered to by all,” he pointed out.

Malaysia is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

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