Friday, March 18, 2016

Job prospects for refugees in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A high-level government committee will meet the stakeholders managing tens of thousands of refugees in the country to discuss the issue of allowing them to gain employment. It is understood that the committee is looking at five areas where foreigners given refugee status by the Malaysian chapter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) could be employed.



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Those job sectors, deemed by the stakeholders as “appropriate, safe and easily monitored by the authorities”, include the hotel industry. Sources in the committee told the New Straits Times that the estimated 156,000 refugees, largely Rohingya people who were not recognised as foreign workers, could possibly be employed under “a very controlled environment and processes”. It is understood that the committee is looking at reviving a shelved pilot project between, among others, the Human Resources and Home Ministries involving the issuance of special employment permits to the Rohingyas. 

The sources said the committee, comprising representatives from the Home, Human Resources and Foreign Affairs Ministries, as well as the Immigration Department, was also banking on this system to better equip government officers in carrying out effective law enforcement. If the plan goes through and the refugees are allowed to work, law enforcers will be able to weed out the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants carrying fake UNHCR cards. “The problem now is when raids are carried out, the illegal immigrants will brandish their UNHCR cards.



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There is no way the authorities can tell if they are genuine as we do not have access to their database. “But if they are registered as workers under the employment programmes sanctioned by the government, they will need to produce their UNHCR cards and a letter allowing them to work. This is the only way the government can control the refugees sanctioned by UNHCR,” said one of the sources. 

The Home Ministry source said the committee’s work was in the initial stages, and the plan, including its technical and legal aspects, was being studied to determine if it could be feasibly adopted in the country. “The government committee involves all relevant agencies to ensure a collective view and that all checks and balances are in place. “The UNHCR will not be involved as the government has to look into its policies first before deciding on the pilot project. They will come in later,” the source said. Immigration Director-General Datuk Sakib Kusmi said the cabinet had considered allowing UNHCR cardholders to work in the country.



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He told the NST that due processes had to be put in place before the green light was given to allow them to gain employment. Sakib said the authorities must be able to work closely with UNHCR, especially in determining the authenticity of UNHCR cards held by migrants, as fake ones could easily be bought off the streets. “The enforcers need to check the cardholders’ identity and their cards. It is important for the men to be able to determine if the person is a refugee or an illegal immigrant.” On potential employment, he said employers might also be given the right to offer refugees jobs either full-time or part-time. Sakib was all for allowing them employment, saying the refugees were experiencing hardship and would be more than happy to make an honest living here. “It is a better option than just letting them stay and beg for money from the public,” he said. In response to NST’s exclusive report yesterday, headlined “UNHCR Card Scandal”, Sakib said the department only recognised genuine UNHCR cardholders, adding that it was the United Nations’ responsibility to monitor any abuse.



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 He said during operations, Immigration officers would detain all, including those with UNHCR cards, to check for their authenticity. UNHCR, he said, should also take precautions and check on the use of fake cards, many of which shared the details of actual refugees in its database. “The UNHCR card comes in various shapes and forms, so it is difficult to be sure whether a card is original or fake. There are also no safety features on the card, which can be easily forged.” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim yesterday blamed UNHCR for issuing cards without consulting the government. He expressed concern over the fake cards and will bring up the issue at today’s cabinet meeting.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my



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