KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has hailed the Government decision to issue work permits to refugees in Malaysia, calling it a “major step” towards improving the welfare of asylum seekers. “This positive step is also in line with the consistent call made by the Commission over the years calling for greater protection for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers in this country,” said its commissioner Tan Sri Hasmy Agam. Hasmy said that the Commission has, in the past, received numerous complaints pertaining to the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers. These complaints, in particular, involves "the deprivation of basic rights to access employment, formal education and healthcare services".
In respect of employment, the refugees often suffer from exploitation by some employers due to their status and the absence of work permits, said Hasmy. “In this regard, the Commission hopes that, in allowing the refugees to work, the Government will also provide safeguards to protect the refugee workers from any forms of exploitation by the employers,” he added. However, the Commission said that it hoped that the Government, as a member of the UN and Human Rights Council, will continue to work closely with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to further improve of the plight of refugees and the protection of their basic human rights. “We hope the Government will take incremental steps towards accession to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,” said Hasmy.
Yesterday, the Home Ministry said that refugees will be given training so that they will be able to work in Malaysia. Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the ministry was working with UNHCR and the Immigration Department to devise plans on providing training and jobs for the refugees. Bernama reported that the UNHCR cards will be upgraded to include radio frequency identification (RFID) technology so refugees can be tracked via satellite.
It will also serve as a debit card as well as prevent forgery, according to Ahmad Zahid. Currently, refugees recognised by the UNHCR are only allowed to work on an unofficial basis by doing odd-jobs. 104,070 refugees in Malaysia held the UNHCR card while 50,000 did not.