Hamzah Why Does Unhcr Want Access To Our Immigration Depots
Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has rejected calls for the representatives from the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) here to be granted access to immigration detention depots.
"First, I would like to explain, this is our country. Why do they want access to our immigration depots? Don't we (Immigration) know who we arrested?
"The people we arrested are those who had committed offences under the Immigration Act," said Hamzah in an online press conference from the Home Ministry in Putrajaya today.
English daily The Star on May 20 quoted Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Jerald Joseph as saying that the government should allow UNHCR access to immigration detention centres as "thousands of asylum seekers" were held there.
Joseph reportedly said while the majority of asylum seekers in detention are Rohingya, there were also other foreigners, including Palestinians and Syrians.
Refugees are considered undocumented migrants under immigration laws in Malaysia and are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.
Hamzah, however, insisted today that UNHCR cardholders would be released.
"If there are UNHCR cardholders, we will release them. And we have never done anything to victimise anyone in this country," he added.
At the same time, Hamzah noted that while UNHCR cardholders were meant for a temporary stay in Malaysia pending their resettlement in a third country, many had instead remained here for up to 30 years.
"This is the reality, so there are matters that I must sit down once again with UNHCR, Wisma Putra, to ensure it does not drag on further.
"I don't want to blame UNHCR but I have to inform everyone today that they (UNHCR) have issued more than 120,000 identification cards," said Hamzah.
"Let us all think, shouldn't the (identification) cards recognised in our country be issued by our authorities?
"If they are permanent residents, it's a different ID, if they work here, they will get a work permit... but now suddenly there is another body issuing a card that supersedes even our National Registration Department," he added.
Hamzah recently courted criticism over the Home Ministry's latest round of crackdown on undocumented migrants, launched in conjunction with the latest movement control order effective from June 1 to 14.
Responding to critics, Hamzah on Thursday said it would be impossible to administer Covid-19 vaccines on undocumented migrants and the operations were intended to "assist" them to register for a valid document, get vaccinated, and later given an option to leave or legally work here.
In February, Malaysia went ahead with the deportation of over 1,200 Myanmar nationals held in the country's immigration detention centres, amid strong protests from UNHCR and civil rights groups.
Critics argued that as UNHCR was denied access to the immigration depots, those who fled from persecution under Myanmar's Junta rule and risk being persecuted upon return could have been among those deported.
As of March, there were reportedly some 178,920 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, with the majority coming from Myanmar.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol and lacks a legal or administrative framework to regulate the status and rights of refugees. - Mkini
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