Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Immigration Department: Resettlement delays cause of vice among Myanmar refugees

Some of the 90 illegal immigrants from Myanmar detained while attempting to enter the country near Bukit Batu Putih. — Bernama pic

PETALING JAYA, Dec 16 — The Immigration Department says vice activities among Myanmar refugees are mainly the result of delays by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resettle them in third countries.

Its deputy director-general, Datuk Sakib Kusmi, said 90 per cent of almost 150,000 Myanmar refugees had “lingered” here for up to four years and were awaiting resettlement but to no avail. 

“UNHCR is supposed to provide them with shelter and jobs upon conferring the refugee status but they have not been doing this and the refugees are left to fend for themselves while waiting to be sent to third countries,” he said. 

“I cannot blame them (Myanmar refugees) for trying to make a living any way they can. Sometimes they even get involved in vice activities just to make ends meet.”

Sakib said the situation was frustrating as the department was not able to take action against refugees who were working illegally in the country as they were “protected” by UNHCR. 

“We send those who we detain to UNHCR so they can be placed in special shelters where they are supposed to be provided with jobs,” he said.

“However, those with refugee cards are released and they go back to their routine and it becomes a vicious cycle.

“It is frustrating as they are protected by UNHCR and we are not able to take any action to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country.” 

In a front page report in Malay Mail yesterday, an Immigration Department spokesman blamed UNHCR for “pampering” Myanmar citizens by granting them refugee status once they reach Malaysia.

The source said more than 140,000 Myanmar nationals had entered the country illegally but were later granted refugee status. 

Police confirmed recently that 15 of the 20 suspects detained for alleged involvement in a series of killings in Penang were UNHCR card-holders.

The authorities had also said they were looking for two other Myanmar refugees to facilitate investigations into the killings on more than 18 Myanmar nationals in the state. 

On whether the Immigration Department would consider allowing work permits for refugees here, Sakib said it was not for them to decide as it fell under the purview of the National Security Council under the Prime Minister’s Department.

“We can only propose to the council first, but looking at the situation, it is not recommended as it will only encourage an influx of illegal immigrants here,” he said.

“This is definitely against our mandate, which is why the UNHCR needs to step up and resettle those granted refugee cards.”

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the ministry was discussing with the Myanmar government on how they can come up with a system to check the entry of Myanmar citizens with criminal background.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com