There are 4,280 Sri Lankan refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.
They comprise about 3% of the 145,025 foreigners who have UNHCR cards as of May.
Most UNHCR cardholders in Malaysia are from Myanmar (134,430) while the rest are from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. About 70% are men and 30% women.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that of the 14 LTTE members arrested this year, seven were using UNHCR cards.
UNHCR spokesman in Kuala Lumpur, Yante Ismail, said the organisation was unable to comment on suspected Tamil Tiger leaders with UNHCR cards, adding that it was the body’s policy not to publicly comment on individual cases involving asylum-seekers and refugees.
“In principle, refugee protection is for those who are in genuine need of international protection when they have been forced to flee their countries.
“Refugee protection is not extended to individuals who have committed very serious crimes,” she said yesterday.
Yante said any enquiry into refugee status would involve a careful assessment of all relevant facts, through a fair process, to decide whether protection was required.
According to UNHCR Malaysia, registered refugees and asylumseekers could move freely as they were not in camps.
The organisation said refugees were unable to work legally, but had access to the informal work sectorand opportunities for self-reliance.
Refugees normally share living spaces in groups of 40 people or more in low-cost flats or housing areas.
Many also live near the construction sites or plantations where they seek employment.
According to a social worker who declined to be named, the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees started arriving in droves here some 10 to 15 years ago, seeking to move to other countries.
However, he added that they were made up of different “groups” who would snitch on each other to the authorities.(The star Online)