Closing the UNHCR office will not see us severing ties with the agency, said Saifuddin

KUANTAN: The proposal to close the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia will not lead to the severance of relations with the international body, said foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah. He said the existing relationship will be maintained because UNHCR is still relevant as an international body and its expertise in managing refugees is still needed by Malaysia.

What is happening is a proposal for a transition, with the Malaysian government having its own card for use by refugees and asylum seekers coming to Malaysia. If this can be done, then the UNHCR office will be closed. But this takes time. We need to do training and, as far as I understand, UNHCR has agreed to conduct training together with our interior ministry officials so that they have the necessary competence.”

Saifuddin said this when asked to comment on a study on National Security Council Director General Rodzi Md Saad’s proposal to close the UNHCR office in Malaysia. Malaysia, said Saifuddin, should assure the international community that it can manage the presence of refugees and asylum seekers better and more systematically than UNHCR. He said any closure of the UNHCR office would not change Malaysia’s stance in terms of humanitarian aid even though Malaysia had not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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“Despite not ratifying the convention, we have given them humane treatment, starting from the Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s until today, with many coming from Myanmar and countries like Palestine and Syria,” he added.

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