UNHCR protests arrests of Acehnese in Kuala Lumpur
UNHCR protests arrests of Acehnese in Kuala Lumpur.
UNHCR/Geographic Information and Mapping Unit
UNHCR/Geographic Information and Mapping Unit.

KUALA LUMPUR, 26 August 2003 - The UN refugee agency has protested against the continuing arrest of Acehnese asylum seekers in Kuala Lumpur, saying it undermines basic human rights and urging the Malaysian government to grant temporary protection to Acehnese fleeing the conflict at home.

On Tuesday, 40 Acehnese asylum seekers were detained by Malaysian police as they approached the UNHCR office in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. This follows last week's arrest of some 400 Acehnese under similar circumstances. The police officers stationed themselves directly outside the entrance to the compound, forcing UNHCR staff to turn away refugees and asylum seekers for fear of further arrests. The agency has suspended the screening of Acehnese asylum seekers so that they will not be exposed to the risk of detention.

UNHCR has gained access to those held at the Langkap immigration detention centre in Perak state. The agency is maintaining a permanent monitoring team and registering those detained there.

"The Malaysian government's actions undermine the right to seek asylum as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski in a Geneva news briefing on Tuesday. "We call upon the government to allow all asylum seekers safe access to the UNHCR compound and stand ready to work with the Malaysian authorities to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees are differentiated from illegal migrants and dealt with in accordance with international principles."

The refugee agency has also urged the Malaysian government to grant temporary protection to all Acehnese civilians fleeing the separatist conflict in the energy-rich Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

Story date: 26 August 2003
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