The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has announced that the Government of Malaysia and UNHCR have reached an agreement on the Government registration of asylum-seekers and refugees holding UNHCR documents.
This exercise is planned to commence in January 2012 and will be carried out progressively throughout the country in major cities where refugees are located.
The exercise will be a joint effort involving officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Immigration Department, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNHCR.
“UNHCR will communicate closely with refugee communities on the timing and location of the registration exercise,” said Alan Vernon, UNHCR Representative. “This exercise will continue until all UNHCR refugees and asylum-seekers are registered.”
This agreement is the result of a series of meetings between UNHCR and the Government in which the issue of registration of UNHCR document holders, the possibility of legal work for refugees and other issues of mutual concern have been discussed.
Vernon clarified that this registration exercise involves the registration of asylum-seekers and refugees, and is separate from the Government’s ongoing 6P Migration Management Programme which focuses on migrants.
“UNHCR regards this as a significant opportunity to improve the situation of refugees. The inclusion of their biodata within a Government database will lead to greater protection for refugees, particularly against arrest and detention as their identities can be easily verified by law enforcement officials,” said Vernon.
“This will also help prevent prosecution of persons holding UNHCR documents for immigration offences or deportation. It will also help address the problem of fraudulent UNHCR identification cards.”
“This joint effort to register UNHCR document holders is an important step to improve conditions for refugees in Malaysia, and is a win-win situation for all concerned.”
As part of this registration exercise, and consistent with similar exercises UNHCR has conducted with other Governments around the world, both parties have agreed to ensure the confidentiality of the biographical information that will be gathered from the UNHCR document holders.
There are currently some 95,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, fleeing persecution and conflict from many countries including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“While Malaysia is not yet a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, UNHCR very much appreciates the cooperation we enjoy with the Malaysian Government and looks forward to continuing discussions on how to strengthen refugee protection in Malaysia including creating opportunities for legal work for refugees as well as enhanced access to education and health services ,” said Vernon.
“UNHCR is also grateful for the close cooperation with the Malaysiangovernment, in particular the Ministry of Home Affairs, in both preventing arrest of refugees and asylum-seekers and securing their release if arrested.”