Sunday, April 3, 2011

Many Myanmar refugees have UNHCR cards, but still picked up

Image©The Star (Used by permission)
by SHAILA KOSHY and STEVEN DANIEL

KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar refugees picked up by the authorities should be released to non-governmental groups which are prepared to stand as guarantors while their United Nations’ refugee status is being checked.

“Many Myanmar refugees have cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but they are still picked up,” said Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah.

On Wednesday he said 23 Myanmarese, of whom 16 were card holders, had been picked up and taken to the Bukit Jalil lock-up.

He added that although Malaysia had not ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, it recognised the UN card.

Muhammad Sha’ani also claimed some investigation officers (IOs) did not seem to know the procedure regarding the release of refugees carrying the UN card.

“I contacted the police but there was no response until I SMSed the Kuala Lumpur police chief on Friday.

“Then, one of the IOs called and said that he had released all those with the UN cards after their status had been confirmed.

“But another IO said he could only release them if a DPP (deputy public prosecutor) said so. Why consult a DPP when they haven’t committed any offence?” he asked.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah, when contacted, said police detained the refugees because they were holding photocopies of the UNHCR cards.

“While they were detained, we checked with the UN counterparts if the cards were authentic.”