KUALA LUMPUR: More than 40 Iranian refugees held a protest outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here today to demand answers to their long-standing resettlement plea.
Ahoora Jenab Zedah, 26, leader of the Iranian refugee community in Malaysia, claims that the community has been forgotten on many fronts.
“The Iranian refugee community has always been ignored and forgotten by the UNHCR.
“Being a small community of fewer than 500 refugees and asylum seekers, we have always received the least attention, support, livelihood aid and resettlement opportunities,” he told reporters.
According to Ahoora, some members of the community have been stuck in Malaysia for over 10 years.
“We have vulnerable families who have been stuck in Malaysia under the auspices of the UNHCR for well over 10 years, with no access to basic civil rights, and yet we see refugees of other nationalities that arrived later being resettled before us,” he said.
He also questioned why the UNHCR claims that resettlement is determined by the vulnerability of one’s circumstances, “yet they have neglected to monitor the Iranian refugee community for years”.
“Why has the resettlement unit not once asked to meet with community leaders to gather proper information and identify the vulnerable members to expedite the process?” he asked.
“We urge the UNHCR to facilitate livelihood aid to families with urgent needs.”
Malaysia is not a signatory of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. This means that it lacks the legal infrastructure to manage refugees and therefore can only act as a “transit” country.