By Mayuri Mei Lin, The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may no longer issue identification cards directly to applicants, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

Instead, he said the Cabinet decided today that the documentation be handled by the Immigration Department and the Home Ministry.

Shahidan explained that this was to curb the indiscriminate issuance of the cards without the government’s knowledge, and that the documentation was only part of the process.

“Those issuing the cards must provide them food and shelter. This one, they issue the cards without providing food or shelter, and so they (the refugees) gallivant all over Malaysia and disturb the locals,” he told reporters when met at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre after the Prime Minister’s Department’s Hari Raya open house today.

He added that it was also the prerogative of the government to determine if an immigrant should be granted refugee status, a decision that should not solely be made by UNHCR.

The minister added that it was improper that the UNHCR cards could be issued without the involvement of the local authorities.

Shahidan also claimed that some of those seeking the refugee status could be criminals or fugitives in their home countries.

“Even if the Immigration Department and the police know about it, they must then determine a refugee’s status and they can’t issue these cards out to anyone who is from Myanmar. It’s only for the Rohingya,” he explained.

UNHCR has been ordered to stop issuing the cards immediately, he said, and will be held accountable should they continue.

Local English daily the New Straits Times reported in March that around 156,000 individuals in Malaysia are registered as refugees and hold the UNHCR identification card, with an even greater number of forged cards thought to be in circulation.

Local police also warned of syndicates running the lucrative trade of selling counterfeit UNHCR cards to illegal immigrants in Malaysia under the guise of being refugees, saying that it may cause the number of serious crime cases here to rise.