PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya has maintained that it does not recognise the status of refugees but will allow them to remain in the country on humanitarian grounds until they are relocated to another nation.
Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin stressed that Malaysia was not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol, which meant that Putrajaya did not have a legal framework to manage the status and rights of refugees in the country.
He added that refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are classified as illegal immigrants with a UNHCR card.
“However, on humanitarian grounds, the government has allowed illegal immigrants holding UNHCR cards to temporarily reside in the country before they are relocated to a third country by UNHCR,” he said in a statement today.
This came after a spike in xenophobic comments aimed at Rohingya refugees in recent weeks, with religious leaders and rights activists appealing for calm.
The wave was triggered in part by a report falsely claiming that Rohingya refugees in Malaysia were demanding citizenship. It also followed the authorities’ controversial move to push back boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar on the high seas.
Hamzah maintained that the decision to refuse these boats entry was to ensure the sovereignty of the country’s borders was not affected.
“However, on the basis of humanity, Malaysian authorities had distributed food supplies to them before escorting these boats out of Malaysian waters,” he added.
He also said the Registrar of Societies had not registered any NGOs for Rohingya in Malaysia, adding that any groups claiming to represent the community in the country were illegal and can be punished.
As such, Rohingya UNHCR card-holders do not have any status, right or basis to make any claims from the government, he added.
Hamzah said the ministry and relevant agencies were committed to maintaining public peace, warning that action would be taken against any UNHCR card-holders found to be disrupting the peace.
He called on refugees in the country to respect and comply with the law.
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