Thursday, January 7, 2016

Nur Jazlan: Malaysia-bound Syrians are ‘migrants’, not refugees



Nur Jazlan said that it was not Putrajaya’s responsibility to provide shelter and the right to work for the estimated 150,000 refugees currently residing in Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, The 3,000 Syrians coming to Malaysia to flee civil war in their country are “migrants” and not refugees, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said after Putrajaya earned criticism for planning to offer them jobs and education while thousands of refugees here are struggling with legal issues.

Explaining this, the deputy home minister pointed out that the eight Syrians who arrived here last month ― the first batch of the 3,000 ― all have passports and even relatives working here.

He added that it was not Putrajaya’s responsibility to provide shelter and the right to work for the estimated 150,000 refugees currently residing in Malaysia.

“The refugees who are already here are stateless since they have no identification or passports.

“They are only recognised by the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) who will arrange for them to be placed in a third country and not to stay here. So it’s not our responsibility,” Jazlan told Malay Mail Online yesterday, when asked if Putrajaya will provide other refugees in Malaysia jobs and education, just like what the government is planning to do for the 3,000 Syrians.

The deputy home minister said UNHCR only declared people as “refugees” if they “don’t have passports and [are] stateless”.

At the recent UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that Malaysia would accept 3,000 Syrian refugees to help with the migration crisis amid the civil war in Syria that has forced millions to flee to Europe and other countries.

In October, his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported in national news agency Bernama as saying that the federal government would provide temporary shelter and jobs for the Syrians that will enter Malaysia in stages over the next three years.

It was reported that these refugees will also get education opportunities for their children, and remain in Malaysia until they are able to return to their home country when the Syrian conflict is over.

The first batch of the 3,000 reportedly arrived in Malaysia last month comprising two families of eight.

Local refugee rights NGOs have told Putrajaya to provide the same legal protection to the other over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia registered with UNHCR, most of whom are from Myanmar, that is being accorded to the 3,000 Syrians headed here.

Nur Jazlan, however, said that Zahid’s remarks about what the 3,000 Syrians will receive in Malaysia match what other migrants here already have.

“They are staying with their relative here. And they can get a job here if some employer wants them.

“The government can give them work permits. The government can help to place them in local educational institutions by issuing them student visas,” he said.

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