Press Release on Syrians

UNHCR Appeals for Protection of Syrian Asylum-seekers in Malaysia, as Conflict Mounts in Syria

Kuala Lumpur, 22 October 2013- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appeals to the Malaysian Government for access to any Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers who have been detained for immigration offences, and to not deport them to a country where their lives and freedom may be at risk.  

Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011, has produced one of the most dramatic and rapid forced displacement situations of recent years.

Today, an estimated 4.25 million people are internally displaced in Syria, while more than 2.1 million have either registered as refugees or are waiting to register in the surrounding region.

In Malaysia, there are 285 Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR.

“As the situation in Syria may remain uncertain for some time to come, UNHCR appreciates that the Malaysian Government has not forcibly returned any asylum-seekers from Syria who are here in Malaysia,” said Michele Manca di Nissa, UNHCR Representative in Malaysia.

“This is in line with Malaysia’s own humanitarian commitment to refugee protection, to which UNHCR is extremely grateful.”

UNHCR has strongly recommended that States adopt a moratorium on all returns to Syria for the time being, pending changes in the situation that would permit return in safety and dignity, he added.

“In light of the escalating conflict in Syria, UNHCR also calls on the Government to continue ensuring that UNHCR has access to any Syrians who have been arrested for immigration offences in order for us to determine their protection needs, just as we hope to continue enjoying the cooperation of the Government of Malaysia in accessing all other refugees and asylum-seekers in detention” said Manca di Nissa.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Syria had become "a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history." He added that "the only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."

More than 97 per cent of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies. They urgently need massive international support to help deal with the crisis.

UNHCR further calls on all countries to ensure appropriate treatment and protection for Syrian asylum-seekers by ensuring access to territory and to swift and fair asylum procedures. Generous approaches to protection are needed, including non-penalization of those arriving without identity documents (or otherwise in an irregular manner) and high refugee recognition rates coupled with the granting of associated rights.

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