Richard Towie speaks during the GMM-Proham roundtable discussion ‘The Asean Humanitarian Crisis in the Seas of Southeast Asia: What are the Durable Solutions?’ in Kuala Lumpur today. — Picture by Choo Choy MayKUALA LUMPUR, May 22 — In an attempt to allay fears that temporarily housing refugees would deplete Malaysia’s resources, the United Nations’ (UN) refugee agency said today that only half of the 7,000 refugees needed shelter.
Richard Towle, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said about half of the estimated 7,000 people abandoned by human traffickers are Bangladeshis who were tricked into getting on boats to leave their homes; leaving only the remaining half in need of refugee status protection.
“We are not talking about a tidal wave of people that is going to swamp the resources of any particular country in the region.
“It is not a volume of people that will fundamentally alter the demographics of the country like we’ve seen from Syria into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey today.
“Those volumes are truly altering at an existentialist way, the composition, features and status of those particular societies and those countries put out their hands wilfully to accept millions of people without complaint,” he said during the GMM-Proham roundtable discussion “The Asean Humanitarian Crisis in the Seas of Southeast Asia: What are the Durable Solutions?” at the GMM office here.
Towle said that although signing the refugee convention can be a symbol, much like a gold star for a chief but he said he preferred that Malaysia did not sign and do the right thing according to its ability.
He stressed the importance of treating refugees and migrants as victims instead of illegal immigrants.
There is also a greater need to clamp down on the human traffickers but this will require high cooperation among the law enforcement in the region.
Of the 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, 93 per cent are from Myanmar and there are probably up to another 40,000 Rohingyas here that are not registered with the UNHCR.
“If you allow people who are going to be here anyway, give them the right to work, you will flush them out of grey economy and they will be more dignified contributors to Malaysia,” Towle said.
So far, about 100 “boat people” have reached Langkawi and are currently being processed by the government.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/only-half-of-7000-refugees-need-temporary-shelter-unhcr-rep-says#sthash.N8rD5Vsm.dpuf