PETALING JAYA: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is cooperating with the Malaysian government over the issue of refugees under its care in the country.
“We are fully committed to find ways that better protect refugees, and at the same time address any legitimate concerns about security, law and order,” the agency said in a statement today.
The UNHCR was responding to a comment by Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed last week that the ministry had not been getting the appropriate cooperation from UNHCR to implement the Proof of Concept (POC) programme to vet 150,000 UNHCR refugees in the country.
He said the ministry had then decided to directly obtain biometric information from those seeking asylum.
However, UNHCR said there is already cooperation taking place on the issue of registration.
“UNHCR is working closely with the home ministry and is offering advice and assistance to a contracted company which had been engaged by the government to implement a pilot registration scheme,” the agency said.
Nur Jazlan said the POC programme, which began on April 1, was aimed at assessing the actual number of UNHCR refugees in the country to facilitate better monitoring.
Under the programme, the biometric data of each UNHCR cardholder, such as facial, thumbprint and iris recognition, would be taken before they were issued a digital identification card.
“The programme is for our own use and for national security as we have to make sure they have biometric data in digital identification cards and not in the form of letters,” Nur Jazlan said.
He added that the programme was also to identify refugees involved in violence and cross-border crimes so that further action could be taken.
Meanwhile, immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said 5,537 illegal immigrants had been held under operations conducted from June 30 to-date.
Of the total, 1,633 were Indonesians, 1,590 Bangladeshis, 446 Myanmars, 255 Thais, 285 Vietnamese, 299 Filipinos and 929 of other nationalities.
Also arrested were 117 employers for various immigration offences.