7 September 2003

Malaysia: UN agency seeks moratorium
on deportations of asylum-seekers

Ruud Lubbers
5 September The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for a moratorium on the deportation of Indonesian asylum seekers in Malaysia amid persistent reports that authorities there are planning to deport some 250 people who fled conflict in the province of Aceh.

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers noted that the reports were at odds with recent assurances from Malaysian officials that persons fleeing the conflict in Aceh would not be sent back to a situation that could endanger their lives and well-being.

Speaking from Geneva yesterday, he said he hoped that following his recent telephone discussions with senior Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials a moratorium on the deportations would be instituted.

A high-level delegation from UNHCR is due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, next week to discuss ways in which asylum issues can be addressed to meet protection needs.

Over the past two weeks, several hundred asylum seekers were rounded up and arrested outside UNHCR's Kuala Lumpur office and remain in detention, effectively barring them from exercising their right to seek international protection.