By P Prem Kumar
KUALA LUMPUR (AA) – The Malaysian government has rejected claims that it will give citizenship to the 3,000 Syrian refugees expected to arrive over the next two years under a United Nations (UN) plan.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed to parliament Wednesday that Malaysia will only host the refugees until the situation in the war-torn country settles.
“The placement of Syrian refugees will only be temporary and the government is steadfast in its position that they will [one day] have to return.”
Hamidi said Malaysia will take in 1000 Syrian refugees every year from 2016 to 2018, with proper security surveillance on each individual.
“In this matter, the government has no plans to receive the Syrian migrants as Malaysian citizens,” he said.
In October last year, Prime Minister Najib Razak — addressing the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York — announced that Malaysia would open its doors to 3000 Syrian migrants over the next three years to help with the current Syrian refugee crisis.
Five Syrian refugees families have already arrived in Malaysia to-date, all screened through the Advance Passenger Screening System with the cooperation of Interpol and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.
Turkey, which has hosted 2.7 million Syrians since April 2011, shelters more refugees than any other country in the world, according to the UNHCR – the UN refugee agency.