Bangkok, Sept. 8, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Malaysia is asking third countries to accept some of the 177,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country, an official told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Mastura Yazid, a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said this while replying to questions from lawmakers in the Dewan Negara, the upper house of Malaysia’s parliament.
Refugees will be resettled “if they can be relocated to a third country or their home country,” said Yazid.
Malaysia’s government officially regards refugees as illegal migrants and has not ratified the UN’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which “outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.”
“We must also update our laws so that if we proceed to ratify the convention, it would put the rights of our citizens first,” Mastura said.
Malaysia’s police have already stepped up their round-ups of undocumented migrants after the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic; deporting thousands to Indonesia and the Philippines.
More than half the refugees registered with the UN in Malaysia are Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
More than one million Rohingya are estimated to have fled official discrimination at home in recent decades, the majority crossing into Bangladesh after Myanmar Army attacks in Rakhine State during 2016 and 2017.
From there, many have sailed for Malaysia or Thailand, where authorities have forced vessels back into international waters.
Around 300 Rohingya came ashore late Sunday in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province.
The boat had been denied entry by Malaysia before Acehnese fishermen mounted a rescue, the second such operation since June.