KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 (Bernama)-- The Malaysian Bar Council today urged the state governments and city councils to come out with a framework and policy in managing refugees in Malaysia.
"We accept the fact that we will always have refugees all the time and this issue is definitely not going to go away," said Datuk M.Ramachelvam, chairman of the Sub-Committee on Migrant, Refugees and Immigration Affairs.
He said that if the refugee issues could not be solved, the social ills would rapidly increase and Malaysia would face criticism from various parties.
The refugee population in Malaysia as at end of February stood at 82,400 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, with an estimated unregistered population of about 45,000.
The majority of the refugees and asylum-seekers were located in the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area, Penang and Johor Baharu, he said at a briefing by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on its New Urban Refugee policy here.
Ramachelvam said refugees recognised by the UNHCR could not easily get access to public services as they did not hold any government-issued documentation attesting to their status.
"They were forced to leave their country and we, as citizens of the world, have a duty of care to manage them," he said.
He said the absence of a formal legal framework to regulate the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia directly affected the protection of their human rights in many ways.
"Therefore, this is important for city council and state government in helping our federal government and bar council to help refugees in improving standard of life," he said.
Ramachelvam said city councils had to undertake identification and registration of refugees in partnership with the UNHCR and proactively address their problems.
Apart from that, he said, the Bar Council had also come up with recommendations such as on the administrative and legislative framework, education, healthcare and security needs for refugees.