NEW YORK: Malaysia has joined the international community in adopting the New York Declaration that will pave the way for greater efforts to assist 65 million displaced people around the world.
In assuring its continued commitment towards providing assistance to bona fide refugees and addressing conflict-induced migration, Malaysia gave its support for the declaration in the ongoing 71st United Nations General Assembly.
In the declaration during the High Level Meeting on Large Movement of Refugees and Migrants, member countries agreed to share responsibilities on the need for coordinated and complementary action on population movements and displacements.
In his speech during the summit, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the initiative by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon was commendable.
Ban mooted the idea last year for the summit to discuss, for the first time, with the 193 member states of the UN on what can be done with over 65 million displaced people around the world.
“I strongly give my assurance that Malaysia would not neglect its international obligations and commitments in addressing conflict-induced migration caused by war, natural calamities, political unrest and armed conflicts,” he stressed.
Zahid told the floor that a reflection of the country’s devotion to the evolving issue was the arrival of 79 Syrian migrants in two batches in May, and 421 more before the end of the year.
This was part of the Malaysian pledge by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak – in the 70th United Nations General Assembly last year – to receive 3,000 Syrian migrants over three years due to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Previously, Malaysia had hosted 340 migrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1997 to 2003 through a similar humanitarian commitment.
“Migration has become and continues to be one of the important security challenges faced by Malaysia, either in the form of irregular or illegal and mixed migration flows.
“Irregular or illegal migration is a cross-border flow of people who enter a country without the legal permission to do so while mixed migration flows are complex population movements including both voluntary and forced migrants,” he said.
Zahid pointed out the most common forms of irregular or illegal migration are related to illegal labour migration, labour trafficking and sexual exploitation as well as those fleeing from persecution, discrimination, natural disasters, poverty and armed conflicts.
Despite not being a member of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, Malaysia has always rendered its humanitarian assistance without compromising its sovereignty, integrity and security.
“In the early 70s, Malaysia had faced the exodus of Vietnamese boat people into the country and finally, they were successfully resettled in third countries with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),” he said.
As of July this year, there were still 151,596 Persons of Concern comprising asylum seekers and refugees from 54 countries though the term “refugee” is not defined under any domestic legislation.
Zahid, who is also Home Minister, took note of the problem on the resettlement of existing refugee population in Malaysia to third countries, which in certain circumstances may take years, and adversely create economic, social, political and security problems.
“In this regard, I would urge the UNHCR and other State Parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its related Protocol to give serious attention and promptly act on it.”
Another problem he highlighted was the authenticity of the UNHCR cards issued to the existing refugee population in the country, although a Joint Task Force as been established for the registration and issuance of the UNHCR card embedded with additional security features.