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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07KUALALUMPUR1362 2007-09-05 23:41:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuala Lumpur
Cable title:  

UNHCR OVERVIEW OF REFUGEE OPERATIONS IN MALAYSIA

Tags:   PHUM PREF PREL CVIS SMIG BM MY 
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VZCZCXRO9124
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHKL #1362/01 2482341
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 052341Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9905
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0389
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1498
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEPICA/USCIS WASHINGTON DC//REFUGEE AND ASYLUM//
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KUALA LUMPUR 001362 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS AND PRM
BANGKOK FOR REFCOORD TIM SHERER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2027
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL CVIS SMIG BM MY
SUBJECT: UNHCR OVERVIEW OF REFUGEE OPERATIONS IN MALAYSIA


Classified By: Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark for
reasons 1.4 (b and d)

Summary
-------



1. (C) The UNHCR Representative in Malaysia presented on
August 23 a "confidential" briefing to diplomatic missions
monitoring the status of refugees in Malaysia. After the
Government of Malaysia (GOM) denied access to detention
facilities earlier this year, the UNHCR regained limited
access to five centers. The Immigration Department continues
to raid refugee settlements and detain persons, including
those with UNHCR cards. The UNHCR successfully intervened in
stopping the court ordered caning of refugees and persons of
concern in all but 30 cases so far this year. The UNHCR also
intervened and gained the release of almost 1,100 persons
from Malaysian Immigration detention. The UNHCR registers
refugees at its compound and via mobile registration teams,
which target vulnerable communities with high concentrations
of women and children or those living in the jungle and
lacking clean water. The UNHCR's refugee status
determination processing in Malaysia is its largest
worldwide. The UNHCR in Malaysia achieved the authorized
annual quota for refugees resettled to the United States.
The UNHCR is providing essential social services not
otherwise available to refugees, including medical clinics
and informal education. PRM provided funding for such
assistance to five collaborating NGOs working with the UNHCR.
Post continues to work closely with the UNHCR to facilitate
refugee resettlement and improve refugee protection. End
Summary.



2. (SBU) On August 23, Volker Turk, the UNHCR Representative
in Malaysia, provided a "confidential" briefing to diplomatic
missions monitoring refugees in Malaysia. Some 30 members of
the diplomatic community attended, drawn primarily from EU
countries as well as Australia. The US Regional Refugee
Coordinator and Poloff represented the USG.

Access to Immigration Detention Centers and Prisons


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (C) Earlier in 2007, the Government of Malaysia denied
the UNHCR access to immigration detention centers (IDC) and
prisons. However, the UNHCR managed to regain access in May
2007 though UNHCR is now restricted to visiting only
registered refugees. (Comment: The Embassy supported
UNHCR's role in a series of meetings with the GOM earlier in
the year. End Comment.) Between January and July, the
UNHCR conducted 208 visits to prisons and IDCs, providing
legal and social counseling to 2,989 persons of concern.
Immigration began relocating UNHCR's persons of concern to
the Ajil detention camp, in Terengganu, to facilitate access
and follow up for refugee status determination and eventual
resettlement processing. UNHCR also succeeded in convincing
prison officials at Malaysia's largest prison, Sungai Buloh,
to segregate UNHCR's persons of concern, about 310 persons,
to their own area away from the prison's hardcore criminals.
The UNHCR maintains a list of particularly vulnerable persons
of concern detained by the GOM. UNHCR requested the release
of some 150 people currently on the list, including women and
children.

Recent Raids and Arrests


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Eight large raids by Immigration and the People's
Volunteer Force (RELA) between January and July resulted in
the arrest of 653 persons of concern. The largest raid,
detaining 206 persons, occurred on June 25 in Kuala Lumpur.
The UNHCR is aware of at least 220 detained Burmese
Rohingyas, including 37 women and 42 minors. Ninety-nine
percent hold either UNHCR ID cards or IMM-13 receipts
(temporary work authorization cards that give legal status to
otherwise illegal immigrants; the USG's Temporary Protected
Status is the near equivalent). An August 5 raid in Kuala
Lumpur detained whole families of from five to ten members.
Although officials released some pregnant women and very
young children, others remained detained, including an
elderly woman with uterine cancer. Raid officials left
emptied homes unsecured and vulnerable to looting. On the
brighter side, Volker noted UNHCR efforts convinced the
National Registration Department to issue a directive to one

KUALA LUMP 00001362 002 OF 004


of their divisions to stop arresting persons of concern who
attempt to register their newborns. UNHCR checks
subsequently confirmed that persons of concern now make
newborn registrations without the threat of arrest or
detention.

UNHCR Interventions


--------------------------





5. (C) The UNHCR intervened with GOM authorities in 1,824
court cases involving 1,196 refugees and persons of concern
detained on immigration violations from January to July 2007.
UNHCR provided legal aid, advice, and representation in
those cases. In 1,108 cases, the UNHCR intervened to stop
the caning of detained persons of concern and registered
refugees. The UNHCR successfully mitigated caning in all but
30 cases, namely those in which UNHCR registration occurred
after the persons' arrest. Authorities caned ten refugees
during all of 2006. (Note: Caning is one punishment for
illegal immigrants under Malaysian law. End Note.)



6. (C) An unofficial agreement between the UNHCR and the
Inspector General of Police enabled the release of 727
persons from police custody. Another unofficial
understanding between the UNHCR and the Attorney General led
to the release of 64 persons from prison. Negotiations with
the Immigration Department gained the release of 278 persons,
including 124 accepted for resettlement, from various IDCs.
(Comment: Both the IGP and the AG are close allies of the
UNHCR and cooperate to increase refugee protection and
provide a moderate voice to counter GOM immigration
hardliners. The level of cooperation and assistance they
provide to the UNHCR exceeds their mandate and they do so
with some risk. In at least one instance, the AG expressed
concern when an UN publication mistakenly publicized their
close cooperation. End Comment.)

Registration of Refugees


--------------------------





7. (C) In 2007, the UNHCR began using mobile registrations
to target refugee communities based on both ethnic
proportionality and vulnerability. The UNHCR registered
7,644 asylum-seekers in the first seven months of 2007 using
the targeted registration criteria, an average of more than
1,000 individuals registered per month. About 37 percent
were women and five percent were children. The UNHCR also
used information gathered during community mapping to assess
appropriate follow-up interventions, including prioritized
registration of vulnerable persons with special needs.
Through mobile registration visits, the UNHCR reached
vulnerable populations such as communities living in jungle
settlements lacking water and sanitation facilities. The
UNHCR also used mobile registration to target urban
communities with higher numbers of women and unaccompanied
children. The UNHCR conducted ten mobile registration
operations in the first seven months and since June, mobile
registration visits occur weekly.

Refugee Status Determination


--------------------------





8. (C) The Refugee Status Determination (RSD) operation in
Kuala Lumpur is UNHCR's largest worldwide, both in caseload
and decisions rendered annually. The main challenge facing
the RSD team in Kuala Lumpur is reducing the backlog of
asylum-seekers waiting for a decision on their refugee
status. The backlog peaked in mid-2005 with 11,000 cases.
By the end of 2006, the backlog stood at about 6,646 cases.
The UNHCR also reduced the waiting period for RSD priority
cases from 18 months to one month, all other cases range from
three to nine months, depending on case complexity.
Individual case processing time shortened from a four-month
average to one month. For the first seven months of 2007,
the UNHCR made 4,189 refugee status determinations involving
5,355 persons, an average of 765 per month with 90 percent
from Burma. The backlog declined 35 percent since January
2007 from 6,646 cases to 4,307 cases at the end of July.
Even with restricted access to prisons, the UNHCR conducted
RSD interviews for 148 cases in detention centers.

UNHCR Malaysia Forms New Field Service Teams


--------------------------




KUALA LUMP 00001362 003 OF 004




9. (C) On May 21, the UNHCR in Malaysia formed a Field
Service Team (FST) as part of their overall effort to
strengthen UNHCR's community outreach. The FST is
responsible for community liaison, community mapping, and
individual assistance for persons of concern (including
vulnerability assessments, financial assistance, medical
assistance, shelter, etc.). Its immediate goals are twofold:
to map refugee populations in Malaysia, an overall priority,
and to renew and strengthen links with individual refugee
groups. The FST is also looking at methods to streamline how
the UNHCR records and disseminates information to refugee
groups. Since its inception in May, the FST performed more
than 15 outreach visits (including visits to the Rohingya
community stressing community building and children's
education) and conducts monthly meetings with community
representatives from all Burmese ethnic minorities.
Individual meetings with community representatives happen
almost daily. Community mapping develops information on the
location and population of persons of concern to the UNHCR in
Malaysia. Community mapping, meeting with community
representative, house visits, and vulnerability assessments
are the main tools available to the UNHCR to gather and
analyze information.

By the numbers: Refugee Resettlement


--------------------------





10. (SBU) As of the end of July 2007, the UNHCR in Malaysia
submitted 6,536 persons (3,936 cases) to resettlement
countries, achieving 78 percent of resettling countries total
quota of 6,800 submissions for 2007. Of those submitted,
resettlement countries accepted 3,569 persons with 2,379
persons departing Malaysia. Burmese refugees represented 97
percent of the overall submissions. The UNHCR submitted
3,713 persons for resettlement to the United States in the
first six months of 2007, about 82 percent of the targeted
4,500 submissions by September 2007. USG processing
facilities on the UNHCR compound became operational in
January 2007 and the UNHCR hosted five USCIS circuit rides to
date. The Australian and New Zealand High Commissions also
conduct year-round refugee processing from their compounds.
The UNHCR hosted refugee-processing delegations from the
Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden and succeeded in
obtaining additional resettlement acceptances against the
initial quota.



11. (C) The UNHCR developed a triage system to identify
vulnerable cases needing priority processing. The largest
representations of vulnerable groups are
unaccompanied/separated children, survivors of torture and
violence, and persons under Malaysian detention. There are
about 1,714 persons identified both as vulnerable and
suitable for resettlement. Approximately 644 persons (38
percent) are pending resettlement with 325 persons (19
percent) being finalized for "imminent submission."

Refugee Community Services


--------------------------





12. (SBU) Because Malaysian law does not distinguish
refugees from illegal aliens, refugees are excluded from
public services. Consequently, the UNHCR has expanded its
role to include basic services often provided for by national
governments. The UNHCR pursues relationships with various
local and international NGOs who then collaborate with the
UNHCR to assist refugees. PRM provided the Jesuit Refugee
Service's local NGO, ACTS, with funding to conducted mobile
health clinics to urban and remote jungle sites within the
Klang Valley, Putrajaya, and Cameron Highlands. These
clinics provided medical consultations for 1,704 patients
during the first seven months of 2007. ACTS also used its
own funds to provide regular clinics at two detention
centers. The Taiwan Buddhist Tsu-Chi Foundation conducted
ten clinics in urban settings. It also provides a monthly
clinic for two detention centers. The Czech Republic's
Embassy provided 20,000 USD to the UNHCR for the local NGO,
Mercy Malaysia. Mercy Malaysia used the funding to operate
clinics in locations not already serviced by other UNHCR
partner NGOs.



13. (SBU) The UNHCR worked with ACTS and the local NGO,
Women's Aid Organization (WAO), in recording incident
reports, providing counseling, temporary shelter, and related
social services to victims of sexual and gender-based

KUALA LUMP 00001362 004 OF 004


violence. As of the end of July, the UNHCR and WAO recorded
96 incident reports with 71 of the cases referred to the
UNHCR for registration. The UNHCR and WAO did not refer
cases to the police because of a lack of a witness protection
scheme.



14. (SBU) About 450 refugee children aged between 4 - 15
years old currently attend informal schools, run by
volunteers and NGOs, regularly from Monday - Friday at four
locations; 49 percent are girls. The main topics taught are
English and/or Malaysian, math, science, and life skills.
The student/teacher ratio is 25:1. Each training center has
at least three teachers and a mini resource library.
Computer literacy is part of the curriculum beginning this
year.

COMMENTS


--------------------------





15. (C) The UNHCR in Malaysia continues to carry out its
mandate in a sometimes very restrictive environment. GOM
hardliners, particularly within Immigration, readily place
obstacles in the path of the UNHCR, while UNHCR finds more
supportive stances in the AGO and police. When Malaysian
Immigration officials denied access to immigration and
detentions centers and prisons, Turk quietly worked with GOM
allies such as the IGP and AG to reestablish official and
unofficial access. The Foreign Ministry also appears to
recognize the value of UNHCR and the risks to Malaysia's
international reputation of not accommodating at least some
of UNHCR's mandate. PRM funding for medical and education
programs for NGOs like ACTS helps expand services otherwise
not available to refugee and asylum-seeking communities in
Malaysia. The Embassy encourages the release of
approximately 250,000 USD PRM funding for education and
health assistance to needy Burmese refugees; Post understands
this assistance is pending action at UNHCR headquarters in
Geneva. Post continues to work closely with the UNHCR and
Refcoord Bangkok to facilitate refugee resettlement and
improve refugee protection in Malaysia.
LAFLEUR