UNHCR High Level Delegation Meets Senior Malaysian Officials on Refugee Protection


Kuala Lumpur, 12 November 2014 - Senior officers from the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva and regional office in Bangkok, visited Kuala Lumpur on 10 and 11 November, and met with Malaysian Ministers and senior Government officials.

The high level delegation is in the region to assess the refugee situation in a number of countries, including Malaysia, and to explore the possibility of protection solutions.

In Malaysia, some 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with UNHCR, out of which 93% are from Myanmar, including the Rohingya community who have been identified as having high protection needs, particularly among women and children.

During these meetings, officials discussed how to provide international protection for those groups most vulnerable, such as the Rohingya refugees, while looking at how best to manage other groups whose ongoing need for international protection is reducing. The delegation explored possible options of transitioning some groups to labour migration schemes in the country.

According to UNHCR Representative in Malaysia, Richard Towle, “Such arrangements would provide a win-win situation for all: The Government would have the benefit of knowing who is in the territory and be able to reduce the criminality and exploitation associated with people in this situation.  Refugees would become more self-sufficient through employment, and the country would benefit from having a reliable and controlled workforce to fulfil foreign labour needs.

“UNHCR was encouraged by the positive and constructive discussions with Ministers and Government officials, including Home Minister Dato Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and believes that through close cooperation, refugee issues can be managed in a way that satisfies the legitimate concerns of the Government about security and law and order, while also providing humanitarian protection to those most in need,” said Towle.

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