Thursday, March 17, 2016

Battling UNHCR card fraud

KUALA LUMPUR: Even as the country grapples with the problem of illegal foreigners, it faces another headache in the form of illegal immigrants hiding behind fake United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cards. Authorities tasked with looking into this problem said not only were they unable to determine the number of those carrying fake UNHCR cards sold by syndicates as an “all-powerful” document, but they also believed the number was much higher than that issued by the office. The problem was worse for authorities working round-the-clock on the ground to smoke out illegal immigrants, now numbering more than two million, for if they nabbed immigrants without valid papers save for the UNHCR cards, they had difficulties verifying the authenticity of the cards.


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There are about 156,000 holders of the card, issued by the Malaysian chapter of the UN body. Federal police Special Branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun told the New Straits Times that it went beyond immigrants seeking refuge or economic gains. He said the poorly controlled issuance of the card in the country had put Malaysia at great risk of being infiltrated by, among others, human traffickers, criminals and syndicates, who would enter the country illegally and seek refugee status here. “The syndicates selling the UNHCR card are making a lot of money.

 The problem has become so rampant that it is almost impossible to go after those who have it in their possession. “If this continues, we are going to see not only an increase in social problems, but also a spike in serious crimes in this country. “UNHCR’s number on registered refugees here does not appear to be too high, but when you assess the situation on the ground, the numbers are more than what was declared. “This is the problem that we are facing,” he said adding that police were also up against syndicates running lucrative fake UNHCR card businesses. Fuzi said, on their part, the police had lodged reports about fake UNHCR cards to the commission so it could take action to plug the weaknesses that had led to the abuse of the system.


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 Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim told the NST that syndicates targeting migrants without valid papers were encouraging illegal entries with the promise of forged documents and fake cards, which they promised would shield them from the country’s laws. “These syndicates are basically promoting Malaysia as a safe haven to illegals. “We are working on several leads and, in the process, we are also checking with UNHCR to verify whether their personnel are involved with the syndicates. “We are looking at all possibilities in arresting this problem,” he said. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the problem was becoming serious, now that the authorities had been reminded against trusting the authenticity of UNHCR cards when the documents were shown to them by migrants. 

He said the authorities had reason to believe that those holding fake cards outnumbered genuine cardholders. “We cannot trust the number provided by UNHCR because we know there are many illegal immigrants using fake cards. “We are also not able to determine if UNHCR has been handing out the cards to refugees in the first place. “Many are taking advantage of the existence of the card.



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The authorities are grappling to trace the more than two million illegals in the country. Where are they staying?” he said, adding that UNHCR was playing a surrogate role in the country to register refugees who had found their way here and to relocate them to a third country within three months. Jazlan carried out a surprise check on illegal immigrants at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, last week. His visit was followed by a raid by the Immigration Department, where it picked up several foreigners using fake UNHCR cards.