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Malaysia Crackdown On Illegals May Affect Refugees

UN Refugee Agency Fears Malaysian Crackdown On Illegals May Affect Refugees

With Malaysia planning to pay bounties to officials taking part in a nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants, the United Nations refugee agency today expressed concern that thousands of genuine refugees and asylum seekers may be wrongly caught in the detention and deportation net.

Of an estimated 28,000 refugees from Myanmar and Indonesia, hundreds live alongside illegal migrants in makeshift jungle camps near the new administrative capital, Putrajaya, making them particularly vulnerable during the plan's implementation, Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told journalists in Geneva.

Having registered 600 refugees from Aceh, Indonesia, living in Malaysia's Penang, UNHCR was sending registration teams to the jungle camps, but doubted that they could complete their work before the crackdown started on a yet unspecified date, Ms. Pagonis said.

The Malaysian Government had assured UNHCR that refugees would not be swept up, but the operation apparently would involve 500,000 volunteers who might not be fully informed about refugee protections.

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