Press Statement
Home Ministry is wrong to justify arrest of Syrian refugee Hassan Al Kontar by immigration authorities
6 October 2018

The Deputy home minister Azis Jamman claimed yesterday that Syrian refugee Hassan Al Kontar has to be detained and investigated by police and that he had rejected so-called offers of asylum from some other countries.

Firstly, the Home Ministry has full powers to authorise the DG of Immigration to grant temporary shelter and asylum to Hassan pending a successful application to Canada

Why detain and investigate him like a common criminal? This is the kind of thing the BN regime used to do, as they had little regard for international obligations or refugee rights.

The deputy minister must realise that there is vast difference between the an asylum seeker and a migrant who willfully entered the country illegally. Asylum seekers like Hassan cannot be treated like illegal migrants and be locked up.

The conduct of the Immigration department to arrest and detain Hassan for 2 weeks, for the purpose of being sent back to Syria, will find Malaysia in breach of it’s international obligation to uphold the principle of non-refoulement – i.e: the non-return of an asylum seeker to his country of origin for fear of persecution and risk to his life.

Instead of having him arrested, deputy home minister should ensure the immediate release of Hassan and process his asylum request by referring him to UNHCR and grant him temporary settlement pending his final resettlement. What is so difficult about that?

Someone who is a refugee or is seeking asylum – does not lose all rights and liberty and the power to choose his country of asylum.

Hassan has expressed his wish to go to Canada as he has relatives there, and Canada is a country that welcomes Syrian refugees. So the suggestion that Hassan is “choosy” or “picky” about his country for resettlement is uncalled for and not a reason to detain him further.

Malaysia has hosted and received many asylum seekers and refugees from war-torn countries in the 1970s until today i.e. the Vietnamese, the Bosnians, the Acehnese, and the Rohingyas.

We urge the Deputy Home Minister not to resort to any moves that will not only deny basic and fundamental rights of Hassan but will also cause international embarrassment to our country.

Hassan must be immediately released from custody and granted temporary settlement in Malaysia pending process of his asylum request to Canada.

Released by:
Latheefa Koya
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty