KUALA LUMPUR: The government does not recognise the refugee status of any group, including the Rohingyas-- even if they carry the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) card-- said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin.
He said that such groups were classified as illegal immigrants (PATI).
Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. This means the country has no legal or administrative framework governing refugee status and rights in the country.
"However, the government has, on humanitarian grounds, allowed those with the UNHCR card to stay temporarily here before being placed in a third country by the UNHCR on a case-by-case basis," he said in a statement on the status of ethnic Rohingya refugees in the country.
According to him, as of March this year, there were 179,521 UNHCR card holders living in Malaysia and out of that, 101,584 (56.6 percent) are ethnic Rohingyas.
Meanwhile, Hamzah said that based on a review by the Home Ministry, it was found that the National Registration Department (NRD) had never registered any Rohingya association in the country.
He said any association representing ethnic Rohingyas in Malaysia was illegal under the Societies Act 1966 (Act 335) and legal action can be taken against them.
"Therefore, ethnic Rohingyas who are UNHCR card holders do not have the status, rights and basis to demand anything from the government," he said.
He said the Home Ministry, through its departments and agencies, remained committed to ensuring public order was maintained and any action by UNHCR card holders that could undermine public order and in violation of the country's laws would not be tolerated.
Hamzah said during the Movement Control Order (MCO), the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) have received 19 reports against ethnic Rohingyas who are UNHCR card holders and four investigation papers have been opened.
Apart from that, two Myanmar boat skippers are to be charged in court for allegedly being involved in a syndicate to smuggle illegal immigrants with UNHCR cards into the country, he said.
Commenting on the decision by Malaysian authorities to not allow a boat carrying ethnic Rohingyas to enter the country's waters on April 17, he stressed that it was done in accordance with the law to protect the country's sovereignty.
However, on humanitarian grounds, Malaysian authorities distributed food supplies to them before escorting the boat out of the country's waters.
Hamzah said the move to tighten borders, including backdoor routes, to prevent intrusions by illegal immigrants was in line with the government's measures to close all entry points to foreigners in a bid to break the chain of Covid-19 transmissions.
"The Home Ministry wants to emphasise that the authorities will always be prepared to prevent any intrusions on its borders and territorial waters," he said, before reminding illegal immigrants holding UNHCR cards to continue to respect and obey the laws of this country.-- BERNAMA
Source: New Straits Times