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Wednesday, 09 December 2015 - 16:25
Malaysia welcomes first group of Syrian asylum seekers
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Malaysia has pledged to take in 3,000 Syrian asylum seekers over the next three years, but refugee groups hope the invitation will also be extended to the more than 1,000 Syrian refugees already on Malaysian soil.

The two families were brought over after their Syrian relatives working in Malaysia appealed to the Malaysian government for help.

A newly-formed special taskforce is working out details for future Syrian arrivals. The government wants to help Syrians coming through this programme to get work permits, enabling them to be self-sufficient.

But refugee groups hope these benefits will also be extended to the more than 1,000 Syrian refugees already on Malaysian soil.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations’ refugee convention and refugees under the UNHCR often work here illegally or survive on NGO support until they can either return home or resettle elsewhere.

Malaysia has not shut the door on this idea. It says it will engage multiple parties, including the UN’s refugee agency, to decide how to honour the commitment it has made to Syrian asylum seekers.

Whatever happens, Malaysia says national security will be prioritised. There will be a strict vetting process for any refugees accepted from Syria, where militant group Islamic State controls large areas.

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