The Home Ministry will be working together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to upgrade the UNHCR card in Malaysia, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. He said the new identification card will be fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology so that refugees can be tracked via satellite. It will also serve as a debit card as well as prevent forgery, he added.
He said the minimal cost for the upgrading of the card will be borne by the refugees themselves. "I have held talks with UNHCR, and am waiting for their agreement on these security aspects before taking further action," he told reporters after visiting the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market in Pusat Bandar Utara Selayang in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Ahmad Zahid said 104,070 refugees in Malaysia held the UNHCR card while 50,000 did not. On the problem of illegal Myanmar traders at the KL and Selayang wholesale markets, Ahmad Zahid said the issue has to be tackled by all quarters so that the welfare of the public, traders and workers is protected. "Ninety per cent of the workforce at the markets consists of Myanmarese whose services are badly needed because locals do not want to do this type of work," he said.
He noted that most of the foreigners working at the market did not have any documents or the UNHCR card, but acted as though they were refugees when the authorities asked for identification. "My ministry is coordinating with UNHCR on this matter. If they qualify as refugees, we will get the Immigration Department to issue them work permits," he said, adding that those given permission to work must follow the laws of Malaysia. "For this week, the Immigration Department will monitor them. After that, my ministry will cooperate with UNHCR to find the best possible solution to overcome this problem," he added. Welcoming the decision of allowing refugees to work in Malaysia, acting representative of UNHCR Michele Manca di Nissa said: "We thank the generosity of the Malaysian government for allowing refugees to stay and work here. And this decision would also put a stop to criticism of the government.
This is a most welcome humanitarian gesture on the part of Malaysia." Meanwhile, the Myanmar Embassy has agreed to bear the cost of repatriating in the shortest possible time 140,000 Myanmarese who are in the country illegally, Ahmad Zahid said. "However, those repatriated can return provided they follow the proper procedures. Their applications to return to Malaysia will be processed by the Immigration Department," he added. From August 1, 2011 till July 8, 2013, a total of 25,535 Myanmar illegal immigrants were repatriated home. - Bernama, July 12, 2013.