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APRRN criticizes Malaysia-Australia deal, including UNHCR’s RSD procedures in Malaysia

May 19, 2011

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network issued a statement criticizing the recent agreement that would send 800 asylum-seekers from Australia to Malaysia. APRRN argued that because Malaysia has  poor record of protecting refugee rights, the transfer would violate Australia’s obligations to protect refugees.

APRRN also argued that UNHCR’s refugee status determination procedures in Malaysia have been problematic:

Australia may also only transfer refugees to states where there are fair, effective and efficient procedures for the recognition of their status as refugees and appropriate reception conditions.  Malaysia has no domestic process in place for the recognition of status.  UNHCR’s process for recognizing status in Malaysia relies upon procedures which do not meet the minimum standards it sets for states. More specifically, UNHCR’s status determination procedures lack procedural fairness; do not adequately allow for representation by counsel; fail to provide for and often prohibit the disclosure of information or documents upon which the decision is made; do not require written reasons for decision; and, do not provide for an independent appeal mechanism.  We are concerned that UNHCR’s status determination procedures may lead to the improper rejection of refugees.

UNHCR-Malaysia is by far UNHCR’s largest RSD operation in the world and posts a generally high overall recognition rate, especially for Burmese asylum-seekers. However, it is not clear if UNHCR-Malaysia’s recognition rate is similarly high for other nationalities.

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