KUANTAN, Oct 8 — The proposal to close the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malaysia will not lead to a severance of ties with the international body, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said the existing ties would be preserved as under international relations, UNHCR was still relevant as an international body and its expertise in managing refugees was still needed by Malaysia.

“What is happening is a proposal for transition for the Malaysian government to have its own card to be used by refugees and asylum seekers coming to Malaysia.

“If this can be done, then the UNHCR office will be closed. But this needs time. We need to do training and to my understanding, UNHCR has agreed to conduct training together with our KDN (Home Ministry) officers so that they will have the required efficiency,” he said today.

Saifuddin said this when asked to comment on a study on the proposal by National Security Council director-general Datuk Rodzi Md Saad to close the UNHCR office in Malaysia, as reported by the media recently.

Malaysia, Saifuddin said, should give an assurance to the international community that it could manage the presence of refugees and asylum seekers better and in a more systematic manner than UNHCR.

He said a closure of the UNHCR office would not change Malaysia’s stand in terms of humanitarian assistance for this group although Malaysia did not ratify the Refugee Convention.

“Despite not ratifying the convention, we have been giving humane treatment to them, starting from Vietnamese refugees in the 70s until today, where many came from Myanmar and also countries like Palestine and Syria,” he added. — Bernama