KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 – Malaysia hosts 142,160 refugees, including Myanmar nationals, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis and Sri Lanka nationals, the Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said 132,187 of them were Myanmar nationals, including 27,289 Rohingya refugees. Malaysia does not recognise refugees as the country is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and considers them as illegal immigrants, he said when responding to a question from Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom (BN-Kubang Pasu).
However, Shahidan said Malaysia allowed refugees to hold the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cards for a temporary stay in the country. Shahidan said UNHCR card holders enjoyed privileges such as treatment at government hospitals, free vaccinations for children and pursuing higher studies at private colleges. “They are also free to move about, but they are still bound by the laws of this country,” he said. To a supplementary question from Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi (PAS-Temerloh), Shahidan said Malaysia would not repatriate Rohingya refugees by force, but would allow them to return home on their own accord.