Myanmar top Malaysia’s list of refugees and asylum seekers

KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar contribute to the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers of various ethnicities in Malaysia, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency estimated that as at the end of February this year, about 141,570 out of the total 152,570 refugees and asylum seekers recorded nationwide, were Myanmar.

They included some 49,800 Chins, 45,170 Rohingyas, 12,340 Myanmar Muslims, 7,320 Rakhines and Arakanese, and other ethnic groups, according to its website.

The balance of 11,000 comprised refugees and asylum seekers from other countries including 3,970 Sri Lankans, 1,200 Pakistanis, 1,100 Somalis, 960 Syrians, 850 Iraqis, 550 Iranians and 430 Palestinians.

Thousands of migrants believed to be from Bangladesh and Myanmar are stranded in smugglers’ boats between the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca.

Out of these, 1,158 landed illegally in Langkawi, Kedah on May 10 and were transferred in stages to the Belantik Immigration detention centre in Sik, Kedah where they are given, among others, food and health checks.

On this development, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar yesterday said that the Malaysian government was currently working with the UNHCR to identify those who could be classified as “refugees”.

On the same matter, Kedah Ayer Hangat assemblyman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid reiterated his request to the federal government to review the placement of law enforcement agencies’ security posts in Pulau Langkawi.

The request, he said, was necessary as the distance between Ayer Hangat and Thailand was only a 10-minute boat ride away, while the marine police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency guard post was located in Kuah, about 40 minutes away by boat from Ayer Hangat.

“This is unwise because the smugglers from Thailand only take 10 minutes to reach Ayer Hangat, while our patrol boats from Kuah need 40 minutes to reach it,” he was quoted as saying to reporters, yesterday.

To this, Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order Department director, Datuk Muhammad Fuad Abu Zarim, when contacted, said a meeting between the Home Ministry and related agencies would be held by the end of this week.

“We will study the matter. Perhaps in the immediate future, we will first set up temporary security posts because a solution cannot be made straight away.

“It involves a budget and the move must be agreed upon by the Royal Malaysian Police, National Security Council and the Home Ministry,” he said.

Nevertheless, for the time being, Muhammad Fuad said in principle, all security posts, especially those close to Thailand, would be bolstered.

The “boat people” issue which came into international limelight for the past week had also been addressed by, among the national leaders, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who said that Malaysia would not tolerate any form of human trafficking.

On the same note, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the Myanmar government in this case should take responsibility to solve the Rohingya ethnic issue, so that other Asean member nations were not burdened by the problem of Rohingya illegal immigrants in their countries.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman at an event yesterday was quoted as saying that Malaysia as the current Asean chairman, would discuss the issue of Rohingya refugees in depth with Myanmar.

Malaysia will also use diplomatic channels with Thailand and Indonesia to work together and determine the comprehensive measures to solve the crisis, he added. – Bernama

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