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‘Mixed Picture’ In Malaysian Clampdown On Migrants

‘Mixed Picture’ Reported In Malaysian Clampdown On Migrants – UN Agency

The United Nations refugee agency, concerned that thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia could be at risk of arrest, detention or deportation as a crackdown on illegal migrants got under way today, reported that a mixed picture was emerging.

“So far, we are encouraged by early reports showing that Malaysian law enforcers, especially RELA – a volunteer corps – and the police, have released people carrying UNHCR documents,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

“However, some 29 persons with documentation have been arrested by immigration authorities and sent to immigration detention centres. We have quickly responded by sending staff to the centres to ensure the refugees are not deported,” he added.

UNHCR last month received assurances from the highest levels of the Government that people of concern to the agency would not be affected. They number some 35,000, including ethnic groups from Myanmar, people fleeing from Indonesia’s Aceh province and Cambodians.

More than 300 people crowded outside the UNHCR’s main office in Kuala Lumpur today, hoping to secure its assistance to remain in the country, some having camped outside the compound since the previous night. The office is trying to register asylum seekers on an urgent basis and counselling them accordingly.

Almost half a million enforcement personnel from immigration and a civil volunteer corps called Ikatan Relawan Rakyat (RELA) and the police started moving in small groups across the country after midnight, to round up an estimated 400,000 illegal workers and their employers.

UNHCR, which last week already voiced concern over the impending crackdown, today received and accepted an offer from RELA to accompany their raids against illegal migrants and do an immediate verification of those of concern to the agency.

It had already set up a 24-hour operations room with three hotline numbers to ensure that the authorities can check whether an individual is registered with UNHCR or is of concern to the office.

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