Putrajaya seeks role to determine refugee status in Malaysia


THE government is working on an arrangement that will allow federal agencies to determine the status of refugees in the country, a task currently undertaken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) said Malaysia will be able to determine and verify the status of refugees on its own.

“I stressed the importance of this to UNHCR’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi in Geneva on Oct 8,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The minister said as of Sept 30 this year, there were 177,943 UNHCR cardholders from 57 countries. The majority came from Myanmar (153,591), followed by Pakistan (6,495) and Yemen (3,568).

UNHCR cards, issued to registered refugees, can provide limited protection from arrest as well as some access to health and education.

Muhyiddin said the National Security Council and Prime Minister’s Department are now working to update the guidelines for managing illegal immigrants who are also UNHCR card bearers. It is to ensure that the nation’s security is not compromised, he said.

“The Home Ministry, through the immigration department, will carry out enforcement operations from time to time on illegal immigrants here,” Muhyiddin said.

From Jan 1 to Oct 21 this year, a total of 14,482 operations were carried out in which 169,760 foreigners were inspected, he said.

UNHCR deputy representative for Malaysia Maja Lazic had earlier said unless individuals are being persecuted for their nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social standing, they will not be issued a UNHCR card.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby afterwards, Muhyiddin said copies of the Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism comic will be confiscated if the comic book continues to be sold.

Once the ban order is gazetted, Muhyiddin said any sales or distribution of the comic book will be seized by the authorities. He added that the ban will apply to all versions of the publication namely in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin.

“What has been reported is that circulation has been ordered to stop. If it is still distributed in the market, we will take action and confiscate copies of the book,” he told reporters.

He said the ministry decided to ban the comic book due to its controversial content.

On Oct 23, the Home Ministry issued a statement which stated that the comic book had content that could “endanger public order and security” and “distort the mind of the public”.