Malaysia welcomed the first batch of 3,000 Syrian migrants it has pledged to receive over the next three years to help alleviate the refugee crisis, local media outlets reported Wednesday.
Two families of four arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 4:50pm from Istanbul, Turkey through an application made by their family members – Mohamed Ibrahim, 29, and Ali Abdul Nasser, 30 – who were neighbors in Idlib, Syria.
According to Malaysia’s deputy home minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed who was there to receive them at the airport, due process would be carried out to issue temporary visiting passes for the family members.
“Due process will be carried out to issue temporary visiting passes for them, he said according to the New Straits Times. “The screening process was done with the assistance of the Malaysian Embassy in Jordan and the Turkish government.”
Previously, Nur Jazlan said that a task force had been set up to handle the identification and screening process for Syrian migrants, consisting of various entities including the Home Ministry, the Immigration Department and the Prime Minister’s Department. He also clarified that the government would conduct background checks on all migrants to make sure they do not pose a threat to national security.
The Syrians arriving in Malaysia, he added, would initially be considered migrants and not refugees until they receive their United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees.
While the refugees have begun entering the country, Malaysia still has to sort out specifics about their status, accommodation needs and ability to work.
“We have always welcomed people who are also termed as refugees,” Nur Jazlan said. “The problem is how do we tackle the bureaucracy when it comes to giving them a status to stay in Malaysia … and how to allow them to work in Malaysia and how about their accommodation, needs and the rest. This issue is not easy to solve but we’re looking at it.”
Around four million Syrian refugees have fled into neighboring countries since the start of a civil war there in 2011, prompting Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to commit to accepting 3,000 refugees at the United Nations General Assembly. Najib said Muslim countries were partly responsible for ensuring the well-being of Syrians fleeing their countries, and that Malaysia, which already has hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, would do its part.
“People around the world cry out for our help. We cannot, we must not, pass on by,” Najib had said.