By Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has been urged by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to give work passes to 153,004 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (pic) said the UNHCR proposed the move to him in a meeting on Monday.

He said the total number of refugees included the 142,224 Myanmar nationals comprising the Rohingyas, Chin and Arakanese communities.

“However, I told the UNHCR that this matter needed to be brought up with the Home Ministry,” Shahidan told reporters when met at the Parliament lobby.

He also pointed out that some of the Myanmar groups,were involved in the persecution of the Rohingyas.

Aside from Myanmar, the other refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia registered with the UNHCR were from countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Palestine, Somalia and Syria.

The UNHCR cards issued to Rohingya refugeees, whom the international agency says should be given the opportunity to work in Malaysia. – The Malaysian Insider pic, June 22, 2015.The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested the Malaysian government to provide work permits to 46,581 Rohingya refugees residing in the country.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the matter was recommended by UNHCR to provide work opportunities for refugees to earn their own income.

“In view of the circumstances in Malaysia, which require foreign workers, the UNHCR recommends granting work permits (foreigners) to Rohingya refugees who have been issued with UNHCR cards,” he told reporters at Parliament lobby, in Kuala Lumpur today.

He, however, said his ministry had informed UNHCR that the application could only be made through the Home Ministry.

In the meantime, he said statistics released by the UNHCR Office, showed there were 153,004 asylum seekers and refugees registered with UNHCR up to May 31.

He said 142,224 refugees were from Myanmar, comprising 49,340 ethnic Chin, Rohingya (46,581), Muslim Myanmar (12,298), Arakanese (7,266), Mon (5,378), Kachin (4,476), Karen Kayin (4,508), Burmese (3,329), Shan/ Thai Yai (1,510) and others (7,538).

There are also refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, including 3,817 from Sri Lanka, Pakistan (1,193), Somalia (1,072) and Syria (938).