ASIA/MALAYSIA - UNHCR in Malaysia to assist refugees: maxi government clamp-down on illegal immigration

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Kuala Lumpur (Fides Service) - Malaysia has at least 400,000 illegal immigrants fleeing from poverty and war and coming mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and the Aceh province of Indonesia working in highly industrial areas. However a recent government clamp down on illegal immigration has made their life more difficult. About 500 police officers and civilian volunteers of RELA Ikatan Relawan Rakyat have been ordered to identify some 400,000 illegal workers as well as their employers.
In this situation refugees and asylum seekers under the juridical protection of personnel of the UN High Commission for Refugees UNHCR are also in danger of being arrested and UNHCR personnel in Malaysia has opened a 24 hour assistance call centre. The government has assured the local UNHCR office that people under its protection will not be affected by the operation.
The results are encouraging. It would appear that the police and RELA volunteers have released arrested illegal immigrants with UNHCR papers. But UNHCR says there are still 29 protected persons under arrest and has sent its officials to ensure these persons are not deported.
In the meantime 300 people gathered in front of the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur, in the hope of obtaining assistance to stay in Malaysia. The office workers are registering the asylum seekers and holing orientation conversations with them. In Malaysia UNHCR is responsible for 35,000 persons including members of ethnic groups from Myanmar, people fleeing the Indonesian province of Aceh and persons of other nationalities. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 2/03/2005 Righe: 27 Parole: 278)