December 03, 2009 12:09 PM
11,000 Myanmars In Malaysia Given Refugee Status By UNHCR
By D. Arul Rajoo
BANGKOK, Dec 3 (Bernama) -- About 11,000 Myanmar refugees in Malaysia were recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2009, making them eligible for resettlement in third countries, according to The Irrawaddy online portal.
Of the total, the Chin ethnic group numbered about 5,000 people, Mon 1,800, followed by Kachin and Shan at about 1,000, and other ethnic groups, while the Arakan were not recognised this year.
Irrawaddy said it was the first time that the UNHCR had recognised such a large number of Myanmar refugees who had experienced difficulties earlier this year when Thailand launched a crackdown on illegal migrants from the country attempting to enter from the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Quoting the Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR), it said there were about 50,000 Chin currently living in Malaysia, and an estimated 20,000 had been granted UNHCR refugee status in Malaysia since 2001.
Nai Roi Mon, an official with the Mon Refugee Office (MRO) in Malaysia, told The Irrawaddy that it processed about 3,000 Mon for UNHCR refugee status.
According to the MRO, no Mon was granted refugee status in 2007, and only 500 were recognised in 2008. It estimated that there are 20,000 Mon living in Malaysia, many illegally.
"They have given favourable recognition to children under age 18, especially from families with many children but no husband. They also favour older men, over 50, as well.
"If you have a UNHCR card, if you are arrested, the UNHCR can help you during detention. This is an advantage for people who work here," Nai Roi Mon said.
Refugees from Myanmar recognised by the UNHCR may wait up to one year or longer for resettlement to third countries.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Burma Workers' Rights Protection Committee told The Irrawaddy that there were about 500,000 Myanmar migrants working in Malaysia, legally and illegally.
The portal said that at the end of October 2009, about 67,800 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia, of whom 62,000 were Myanmars.
"Many pay 18,000 Thai baht (US$500) or more to enter the country (Malaysia) illegally," it said.