PUTRAJAYA, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- A government pioneer project to enable the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia to be legally employed will begin on March 1, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said that initially about 300 Rohingya holding the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards who had undergone security and health screening would be emplaced in selected companies in the plantation and manufacturing sectors.
"They will be able to gain skills and income to make a living before being relocated to a third country," he said in a media statement after chairing a meeting of the high-level committee on UNHCR issues at Perdana Putra here today.
Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the initiative to allow the Rohingya to be employed would help address the human trafficking issue more effectively.
Thus far, he said, the absence of an immigration status for the Rohingya had made them vulnerable to exploitation as forced labour and illegal workers in the country.
Ahmad Zahid said that as of Dec 31, 2016, there were 149,474 UNHCR card holders from 62 countries in Malaysia. Of the total, 133,517 or 89 per cent were from Myanmar and 55,565 of them were Rohingya.
He also said that the government was always looking for the best approach to manage UNHCR card holders even though Malaysia was not a party to the United Nations Convention on Refugees 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
"The best approach is based on the humanitarian aspect expressed through government aid and support," he said.
The other efforts included improving the National Security Council Directive No. 23 of 2009 regarding UNHCR card holders to ensure more orderly management of the card holders, he said.
He said the National Security Council was improving the directive to adapt it to current developments and the irregular movement of migrants in the Southasian region.
Ahmad Zahid said the National Blue Ocean Strategy approach was also used in managing refugee issues more effectively through the establishment of the Joint Task Force.
"This JTF involves the cooperation of six major ministries with the UNHCR to ensure that the UNHCR card holders are those duly authorised," he said.
He said Malaysia always worked closely with the UNHCR as a lead agency handling refugees under the auspices of the United Nations.