Thursday, November 19, 2015

Post Paris attacks, Malaysia extra-cautious on refugees

By P Prem Kumar


In the wake of Friday's attacks in Paris, Malaysia has said it will carry out extra background checks on refugees from the Middle East -- especially 3,000 Syrians it recently pledged to accept.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said Monday that the extra precautions were being taken amid speculation that one of those involved in the attack may have entered Europe as a Syrian refugee.

"There is always danger in accepting refugees from the Middle East and that is why we have been taking our time to individually filter who we want to take," he told reporters.

"The vetting process has started given what is happening in Paris now and we will only take in those with a clear background."

Mohamed said Malaysia is not prepared to take any national security risks, but that it would still fulfil its commitment -- made by Prime Minister Najib Razak at an Oct. 1 United Nations meeting -- to accept 3,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years.

"Let's not see all Syrian refugees in the same light," Mohamed said. "We assume they are not terrorists but we have to filter their background to ensure they pose no threat to the country."

Mohamed added that police are strengthening security in Kuala Lumpur as world leaders gather for the South East Asian leaders meeting and East Asia Summit on Friday.

United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are also expected to attend the East Asia Summit as dialogue partners.

"Early preparations have been made following what happened in Paris and a terrorist attack plan in Kuala Lumpur months ago," Mohamed said.

On Sept. 25, Malaysian police arrested a Malaysian, a Syrian and an Indonesian suspected of planning an attack in the capital following a tip-off received from their global intelligence network.

Police said they believed that the suspects were involved in "terrorism", and had the intention to launch terror attacks on Malaysian soil.

"Police have taken more stringent steps to ensure safety in Kuala Lumpur during the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] summit," Mohamed added.

Earlier this month, Malaysia underlined that it would not become a party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and Protocol 1967.

It said it would not sign the convention for the time being, but would continue to extend assistance to Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar and those from the Middle East. 

The Paris attacks saw gunmen and bombers launch coordinated raids on restaurants, bars, a sports stadium and a concert hall around the French capital.

According to AH-AP, a body representing Paris' medical authorities, the death toll Monday stood at 132.