UNHCR sees higher number of refugees registering over past year

UNHCR representative for Malaysia Thomas Albrecht.

KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted a higher increase in the number of refugees registering with the organisation.

It representative here, Thomas Albrecht, said this did not necessarily indicate an increase in the number refugees coming into the country. It instead points to a higher number of unregistered refugees finally registering for their UNHCR refugee cards.

Currently, UNHCR states there are over 170,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, which accounts for 0.5% of Malaysia’s population.

“It is an expression of hope and courage of many asylum-seekers, who have been in Malaysia for years, that the government may allow for them to live legally in Malaysia and obtain work rights, while waiting to go home or for another solution to be realised,” Albrecht said at function held in commemoration of World Refugee Day, organised by the UNHCR.

He noted Article 35 of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, which provided for a temporary residence with basic rights to employment, healthcare and education for refugees in the country.

“I salute the government of Malaysia for having such foresight and initiative.”

Albrecht also commended local civil society organisations and the private sector for being cooperative and engaging in efforts to improve refugees’ quality of life.

He added that the organisation is mooting outreach programmes in specific refugee communities throughout Malaysia so that more refugees would have access to their services