A performer takes a wefie with attendees of The Refugee Fest in Kuala Lumpur, on Aug 10, 2017. Source: Facebook
We must let humanity prevail over often baseless concerns of national insecurity in our treatment of refugees, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Malaysia Richard Towle told a crowd at The Refugee Fest in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
In his opening statement, Towle spoke of society’s choice when it comes to our handling of the refugee community, saying it was a test of our resolve as a civilised species as to whether we choose to treat the vulnerable with compassion and humanity over unsubstantiated national security threats and our inclination to demonise.
“The issue of refugees is truly a global one and how we respond to it globally reflects how we are as people,” he said.
“If we respond – despite the threats to global insecurity – in a way that is humanitarian and respects human rights, then I think that is a badge of us as a civilised species.”
“Any discussion that puts the human being first, puts the women, the family, the children and the vulnerable first, and then looks at the implications for security as a secondary consideration, has got it the right way around.”
His comments come two weeks after the Malaysian government urged the refugee agency to share its database of some 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers in an effort to prevent Islamic State militants from entering the country.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Channel NewsAsia the authorities are concerned some militants may have slipped into Malaysia and obtained a UNHCR refugee card to move freely in the country, despite little evidence to support this claim.