Friday, March 18, 2016

Fake UNHCR cards threaten nation of Malaysia

MALAYSIA is not a signatory to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, but the country plays host to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has an office in the capital. Unfortunately, a UNHCR card fraud is happening. The country is being swamped by foreigners shielding behind fake refugee cards. 

The genuine item is, of course, issued by UNHCR, but quite unilaterally, without consultation with the authorities. An investigation by this paper has shown that the fake cards are easy to come by, comparatively inexpensive, have a quick turnaround time and look very much like the real deal. Naturally, heightened concern is to be expected, given the already extant problem of illegal immigrants — numbering in the millions — that the country is grappling with. Police claim that having fake refugees in the country is even more dangerous because the intention behind the procurement of fake cards can be presumed to be sinister. After all, why pay money if one is a genuine refugee?


And, the attitude of UNHCR in this matter verges on disrespect. Its spokesman simply pushed the matter back to Malaysia as the party responsible for investigating and stopping the problem. The argument is that the body issues the cards according to specific guidelines. If criminals exploit the situation, then, the authorities must put a stop to the issue. But, how will Immigration and police personnel identify the fake cards when they are as good as the genuine item? Furthermore, the intransigence of UNHCR in refusing to share data on those issued with genuine refugee cards makes the job of apprehending those with fake cards difficult, if not near impossible. And, the minister responsible in the Prime Minister’s Department is none too pleased.

 He is demanding that UNHCR act with greater discretion in the issuance of the cards. There is also an indication that the issuance of fake cards is an inside job or involves someone with connections on the inside, as every fake card issued bears the name of a legitimate refugee listed by UNHCR. This further complicates the work to be done by police and Immigration. Therefore, without the cooperation of the UNHCR office, the authorities are forced to take an aggressive approach. After all, it is the country that is being unfairly accused of human trafficking, when it is obvious that criminal elements are exploiting every weak link that exists.


Malaysia should demand that all refugee cards issued by UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur be rescinded and returned. A moratorium would be established, rendering the cards meaningless. Genuine refugees would then be issued completely new identification documents. Meanwhile, undocumented aliens would be rounded up and deported. For, to not act firmly is to compromise the country’s security. In the event UNHCR refuses to work with the authorities, it should be told to pack its bags until such time as Malaysia decides to be a signatory to the refugee convention. 

When respect is not given voluntarily, it should be taken by force.

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