PUTRAJAYA: The government is considering penning an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with regard to its role and responsibility over refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
After chairing a refugees and asylum seekers management committee meeting, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the responsibility of managing refugees and asylum seekers should not be shifted to the government or local community.
“It is (UNHCR’s) responsibility in line with its function,” Zahid said in a statement.
He said the agreement with UNHCR will touch on its role and responsibility in accordance with Resolution 428(V) of the United Nations Convention 1950, which covers the UN body’s supervisory responsibility towards refugees.
Zahid said Putrajaya was aware of the people’s concerns about some refugees and asylum seekers’ activities, which were said to go against local norms and cultures.
In September 2022, national security director-general Rodzi Saad suggested shutting down the UNHCR office in Malaysia to allow Putrajaya to manage refugees in the country better without “interference” from external influences.
A month later, then special functions minister Abd Latiff Ahmad confirmed that a transition was in the works for the federal government to oversee the management of refugees in the country.
At the time, UNHCR welcomed Malaysia’s interest in managing refugees, saying such a role was usually assumed by the government in other countries.
A total of 185,760 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with UNHCR as of March. Of the figure, 160,332 people are from Myanmar.
Zahid added that this was a significant jump compared with 75,617 in 2009.