Malaysia's government says it has no plans to sign a United Nations agreement that recognizes and protects refugees because of fears the country will be overwhelmed by asylum seekers.
Officials with Malaysia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the country will continue to classify refugees as illegal immigrants who can be detained and deported.
However, they say the government allows the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to operate in Malaysia and does not take action against refugees who are certified by the agency.
The U.N. refugee agency says it has certified more than 45 000 refugees in Malaysia, mostly from Burma and Indonesia.
Rights groups have criticized the Malaysian government for not signing the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.