Ministry to probe NGO selling ID cards to Rohingya

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Source: The Malay Mail Online

Prof Azmi Hassan said with thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here. — Reutrs pic

Prof Azmi Hassan said with thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here. — Reutrs pic

PETALING JAYA, Aug 5 — The Home Ministry will investigate the sale of identity cards by a non-governmental organisation to migrants, including those who enter the country illegally.

“This (sale of identity cards) is being done without authorised consent or permission,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.

“It is illegal for identity documents of any kind to be issued without the express permission of the government.

“Those who sell the cards as well as those who bought them were guilty of issuing or being in possession of false documents. We consider these people to be engaged in criminal activities.

“We are looking into the matter and will take appropriate action. We have not received any request to issue cards from the organisation in question.”

Nur Jazlan said even if the organisation had applied for permission and had yet to be granted approval, it was a serious offence to begin distributing such identification cards on their own accord.

“This is not a joke … there are procedures to follow. Identity cards need to be approved, vetted and serialised to ensure they carry authentic information. Anything less is outright fraud,” he said.

Nur Jazlan said this when asked to comment on Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhom), which has been issuing identification cards to migrants, claiming it was to prevent abuse.

The NGO had issued some 100 cards in an effort to provide the ethnic minority with documentation.

Nur Jazlan said if the NGO was conducting vetting of applicants without oversight by the government, it had no value and said the group had no right to issue  identity cards.

“Stateless people have no rights in this country… much less to issue identity cards on their own and expect the government to respect it,” he said.

The NGO claimed its community was being harassed by enforcement authourities due to a lack of identification documents and this was why they issued cards on their own accord.

“These are stateless people who reside in the country illegally. I do not blame the enforcement authorities for doing their job,” Nur Jazlan said.

The government was urged to act swiftly against the NGO as it seemed to be arm-twisting authorities into recognising and absorbing ethnic Rohingya migrants.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Perdana School geo-strategist Prof Azmi Hassan said the country already faced pressure to accord benefits for those holding cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“In addition to recognition, we are now obliged to provide employment to card holders under the amended Atipsom,” he said, referring to the Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Anti-Smuggling Of Migrants Act 2010.

“The issuing of cards without the express permission of the authorities may lead to the government being forced to recognise the cards under the pretext of human rights.”

Azmi said if the cards were only for the internal use of the issuing organisation, it would not be a problem, but the fact the NGO had declared its intention to have the cards recognised was worrying.

“I believed the issuance of the cards is precursor to force the government into granting the Rohingya refugee status,” he said.

“With thousands of Rohingya refugees already in the country, the issuance of cards without official approval could seem to be a signal to those still in Myanmar to come here,” he said.

Azmi said the issue had placed the country in an awkward position and Malaysia ran the risk of becoming a scapegoat of the international community.

“No country is willing to accept the Rohingya and it is obvious Malaysia will be used as the scapegoat. There is no way to absorb them as it will strain our resources and jeopardise our security,” he said.

“Unless the international community is willing to share the responsibility, we will be burdened by the influx of Rohingya and be accused of not respecting their rights.”

 


NGO issues ID cards to Rohingya migrants for RM100
Source: The Malay Mail Online

Zafar shows one of the cards produced by Merhom. He argues the cards are needed to provide the community with some form of identification. — Malay Mail pic

Zafar shows one of the cards produced by Merhom. He argues the cards are needed to provide the community with some form of identification. — Malay Mail pic

PETALING JAYA, Aug 5 — A non-governmental organisation here has begun issuing pictured identification cards to migrants it says it has vetted to protect them from abuse.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhom) had issued up to 100 cards since June in an effort to provide the ethnic minority with documentation.

The organisation’s president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani told Malay Mail they had previously issued letters to those who went through the association’s vetting process, and had decided to introduce the ID card as it was easy to carry and resistant to damage.

“It is hoped the Malaysian government will accept these cards as a temporary measure,” he said.

“These cards are only issued to Rohingya who have escaped persecution from Myanmar. This is not a substitute for documents issued by either the United Nations or the government.”

“The cost is borne by the cardholder who pays RM100 per card and they are printed by a local NGO,” Zafar said.

He admitted Merhom was not registered with the Registrar of Societies but said he did not view this as a problem as the NGO was “serving the community.”

Nevertheless, he insisted the card was necessary as members of the community were vulnerable if they did not have identification of any kind.

“The authorities may use the lack of documentation to pressure them. They may go into hiding or take unnecessary risks because they are afraid,” he said.

“Human trafficking syndicates can take advantage of them and smuggle them anywhere with ease as there is no means to keep track of them.”

Zafar urged the authorities to reconsider current policies barring migrants from working as a means of supporting themselves.

“We did not come here to live on welfare. If the opportunity to work is provided, it will free up resources for the NGOs to help more needy migrants,” he said.

He also said most Rohingya here were merely “waiting it out” and intended to return home as soon as conditions in Myanmar improved.

“Whether it is to return home or travel to a third country, most of us want to move on. We appreciate the safety and shelter in Malaysia but it is not home,” he said.

“It does not matter if the government will not recognise the identity cards. It is just to keep tabs on members of the community. We do our own vetting and issue cards at our discretion.”

On July 20, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the Cabinet had called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia to stop issuing refugee identification cards to walk-in applicants.

Shahidan justified this saying the increasing mumber of cardholders could threaten national security and create social problems.

He also questioned how such documents could be issued without the knowledge of the Immigration Department and police.

Shahidan, who is also responsible for National Security Council affairs, said the government had not endorsed any such card as a valid identification document.

“Identity cards, such as those issued by the UNHCR, come with commitments. The cardholders are entitled to certain protections and access to services,” he said.

“These cards are issued to individuals without the consent of the authorities. They are not valid for any purpose.”

Shahidan said there were concerns the cards would set a dangerous precedent and questioned the quality of background checks conducted by the issuing NGO.

“What checks have been done to guarantee the details on the issued card corresponds with the details of the individual and how has the NGO vetted these details?”

 

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