PETALING JAYA, Dec 15 — Myanmar citizens flocking to Malaysia are most probably lured by the appeal of refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A source from the Immigration Department blamed UNHCR for “pampering” nearly 140,000 Myanmar nationals who had illegally entered the country but were later registered and granted refugee status under its protection.
“With UNHCR doling out refugee cards to these illegal immigrants, it creates a false impression that it is okay for them to endure a short detention before they are released as refugees,” he said.
He said this encouraged illegal immigrants to bring in their spouses, families and friends from their homeland into the country, further flinging open the floodgates.
“To top it off, our country is most conducive to them (Myanmar citizens) because we have ample job opportunities and similar religions or traditions to which they can closely relate,” he said.
“People must understand we are not party to the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and we will do what is necessary to ensure those who enter illegally are detained or deported home.
“However, carrying this out is difficult with the contradicting message sent out by UNHCR.”
According to the source, some 4,300 Myanmar citizens have been detained from numerous immigration raids and operations in the country since January, while there are 5,200 Myanmar illegal immigrants at detention centres awaiting deportation or for UNHCR to intervene.
So far, the source revealed the Immigration Department had already deported 3,126 of those detained this year.
UNHCR reports, on the other hand, showed an influx of 6,000 refugees from March to November, bringing the total of registered refugees from Myanmar to 139,200.
The total number of refugees in Malaysia, including those seeking asylum from other countries, is now at 143,435 according to UNHCR.
Another Immigration official said loose border control in Thailand makes it difficult for the authorities to contain the situation.
“People keep pointing fingers at us but it really takes two hands to clap,” he said.
He said Wisma Putra should hold more bilateral talks with Thailand to tighten border control.
“To my knowledge, Malaysia is second to Thailand in terms of saturation of Myanmar citizens illegally entering the country.”
He said over an estimated stretch of 600km, Malaysian Immigration authorities had set up eight checkpoints which were sufficient to track illegal entry into the country.
However, he was puzzled how they had managed to travel across Thailand without getting caught.
“Malaysia shares its borders with Thailand and not Myanmar, so how did they evade the immigration officers there in the first place?”
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