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Malaysia to issue its own refugee card, says home minister

Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin says only the Malaysian authorities can decide whether refugees can remain in the country.

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Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin. Photo: Bernama
Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin. Photo: Bernama

The government is planning to issue its own refugee card through the relevant agency, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said today.

He said the Malaysian authorities were the ones who were supposed to decide whether refugees could remain the country and be given the card issued by the Malaysian government agency responsible.

“Suddenly, there are other agencies that are conducting registration (and issuing cards) in our country,” he said at a media conference after an event in Putrajaya today.

Hamzah was reported to have said in April 2020 that the government would not acknowledge the refugee status of Rohingya and would classify them as illegal immigrants who hold United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) cards.

He said Malaysia was a non-signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and therefore lacked a legal or administrative framework to manage the status and rights of refugees in the country.

Currently, only the National Registration Department is qualified to register individuals to stay legally in Malaysia.

In other developments, Hamzah said the authorities were still tracking down 61 Rohingya refugees who escaped from the Relau temporary immigration detention centre in Sungai Bakap, Penang.

He said the authorities were identifying their location, believed to be in Selayang, Selangor.

On April 20, 528 detainees escaped from the detention facility. Over 460 were recovered, while seven were killed while trying to cross the North-South Expressway.