PETALING JAYA: With concerns over the movement of Islamic State (IS) militants into Sabah and other entry points in the country, the government has asked the United Nations agency responsible for refugees to share its database of refugees in Malaysia, Channel NewsAsia reported.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan spoke of the fear that some IS militants may have slipped into Malaysia and obtained refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to move freely in the country.
“The UNHCR has issued cards but the home ministry is not involved in the process of vetting at all. They don’t collect biometric data.
“This does not help our enforcement effort especially on transnational crime, human trafficking and terrorism. So we want to know whether any IS links have penetrated their numbers,” Nur Jazlan was quoted as saying by the Singapore-based news broadcaster.
There are said to be about 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently carrying the UNHCR card.
“The refugee numbers reported by the UNHCR keeps increasing. And since the Malaysian public now is very concerned about the presence and high numbers of foreigners, it’s time the government identifies and closes all loopholes where they can enter. And the UNHCR route is one of them,” the deputy minister told CNA.
According to Nur Jazlan, organised crime syndicates have been suspected of helping IS militants cross into Malaysia from the Thai border by the truckloads.
He also claimed the UNHCR had not provided appropriate cooperation to his ministry to implement the Proof of Concept (POC) programme to vet close to 150,000 UNHCR refugees in the country.
“The POC programme was launched on April 1 and thoroughly discussed. They have agreed in principle but fail to give details of refugees as per mutual agreement. And they are not cooperating and slowing down the process,” Nur Jazlan was quoted as saying by CNA.
He added that the home ministry may decide to tackle the issue by meeting with refugee communities personally to collect their biometric data if further cooperation was not forthcoming.
The UNHCR website reveals that there are 149,200 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the agency in Malaysia as of June 2017.
About 90% of these refugees are from Myanmar, with the remaining made up of Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Yemenis, Somalis, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians.