KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Bernama) — The Home Ministry will be working together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to upgrade the UNHCR card in Malaysia, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said the new card would be fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology so that refugees can be tracked via satellite.
He said the new identification card would also serve as a debit card to facilitate money withdrawal or for expenditure, apart from preventing forgery.
He said the minimal cost for the upgrading of the card would be borne by the refugees themselves.
“I have held talks with UNHCR, and am waiting for their agreement on these security aspects before taking further action,” he told reporters after visiting the Kuala Lumpur (KL) Wholesale Market in Pusat Bandar Utara Selayang here Thursday.
Ahmad Zahid said in Malaysia 104,070 refugees held the UNHCR card while 50,000 more refugees did not.
He said most of the foreigners working at the market did not have any documents or the UNHCR card but acted as though they were refugees when the authorities asked for identification.
“For this week, the Immigration Department will monitor them. After that, my ministry will cooperate with UNHCR to find the best possible solution to overcome this problem,” he said.
To overcome the issue of Myanmars trading at the market, Ahmad Zahid said the Myanmar embassy had agreed to bear the cost of repatriating 140,000 Myanmars who are in the country illegally, in the shortest possible time.
“However, those repatriated can return provided they follow the proper procedures. Their applications to return to Malaysia will be processed by the Immigration Department,” he said.
From Aug 1, 2011 till July 8, 2013, at total of 25,535 Myanmar illegal immigrants were repatriated home.
On the illegal Myanmar traders at the KL and Selayang wholesale markets, Ahmad Zahid said the issue had to be tackled by all quarters so that the welfare of the public, traders and workers were protected.
“Ninety per cent of the workforce at the markets consist of Myanmars whose services are badly needed because locals do not want to do this type of work. Not all of them have valid UNHCR cards. Most do not have any identity documents.
“My ministry is coordinating with UNHCR on this matter, if they qualify as refugees, we will get the Immigration Department to issue them work permits,” he said.
However, he said those given permission to work must follow the laws of Malaysia.
Welcoming the decision of allowing refugees to work in Malaysia, Acting representative of UNHCR Michele Manca di Nissa said:”We thank the generosity of the Malaysian government for allowing refugees to stay and work here. And this decision would also put a stop to criticism on the government. This is a most welcomed humanitarian gesture on the part of Malaysia.”