Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said UNHCR has no legal standing to issue refugee cards without the government’s approval and blamed the commission as contributing to the flood of immigrants in Malaysia. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Syndicates running the lucrative trade of selling false United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards to illegal immigrants in Malaysia may cause the number of serious crime cases here to rise, local police has warned.
Federal police Special Branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the false cards exposes Malaysia to the risk of having human traffickers, criminals and syndicates illegally entering here and subsequently seeking recognition as refugees.
“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,” he was quoted saying by local daily New Straits Times (NST).
NST said around 156,000 individuals in Malaysia are registered as refugees and hold the UNHCR-issued card, and that local police believe that the number of fake cards is greater than that of those validly issued.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said syndicates are “promoting Malaysia as a safe haven to illegals” by promising forged cards to migrants without valid documents.
“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,” he said.
NST also said one of its reporters managed to get a false UNHCR card through an agent of a syndicate by providing a RM120 fee and RM30 for taxi fares and a passport photo.
The reporter’s false UNHCR card carries the name of a Rohingya refugee validly registered in the UN body’s Malaysian chapter’s database, with the name shared by several other Rohingyas in their false cards.
Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who oversees the National Security Council and the Immigration Department, reportedly said the government had never gave its nod to the issuance of UNHCR cards and the number of cards or the recipients.
“They (illegal immigrants) have been hiding behind these cards. It is as though they are just handing them (the cards) out freely to anyone who claims to need refuge. Right now, these ‘bandits’ (the foreigners) are all over the country,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department was quoted saying, claiming that the cards are being traded nationwide for good value.
Shahidan said UNHCR has no legal standing to issue refugee cards without the government’s approval and blamed the commission as contributing to the flood of immigrants in Malaysia.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said many are taking advantage of the false cards and that the authorities are grappling to trace the over two million illegal immigrants in Malaysia.
UNHCR said it shared the government’s concerns and that it is up to Malaysia to probe the problem of false refugee registration cards held by illegal immigrants, adding that it has been regularly updating the cards’ security features and to ensure more efficient verification by the authorities.
“UNHCR conducts the regular monitoring of its cardholders, and monitoring will be done frequently if specific allegations are reported,” the commission’s local spokesman Yante Ismail was quoted saying.
She said UNHCR has a rigorous process to determine genuine asylum seekers, adding that the cards are issued to any individual who meet the “accepted international definition of needing refugee protection without discrimination on the basis of race, religion and nationality.”
Currently, there are around 156,000 refugees from around 50 countries registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia, with 93 per cent originating from Myanmar, Yante said.