2013 UNHCR country operations profile - Malaysia
Malaysia presents a complex protection environment for UNHCR as a result of the large number of urban refugees, smaller groups of stateless people, and Filipino Muslims in Sabah for whom the Malaysian Government has assumed responsibility. The urban refugees in particular are unlikely to find a durable solution in Malaysia.
Though communication between UNHCR and the Government of Malaysia has improved steadily, Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and does not have an asylum system in place to regulate the status and rights of refugees. This absence of a legal framework leaves refugees vulnerable to abuse of their human rights.
Malaysian law makes no distinction between refugees and undocumented migrants. There are some 4 million migrants in the country, approximately 2 million of whom are undocumented and considered illegal. Refugees are vulnerable to arrest for immigration offences, and may be subject to detention, prosecution and punishment, including whipping and deportation. National NGOs have limited capacity to support asylum-seekers and refugees, while international NGOs face significant difficulties in operating in the country.
During 2011 and 2012, there were fewer arrests of documented asylum-seekers and refugees as a result of greater recognition of UNHCR documentation on the part of the authorities. However, there have been large-scale arrests of asylum-seekers who have not yet been registered.
Over the last two years, UNHCR has carried out multi-faceted advocacy emphasizing a series of steps the Government could take to improve the protection environment for refugees and stateless persons in Malaysia. Given the continuing reluctance of the Government to sign the Refugee Convention at this stage, UNHCR has advocated for the establishment of a legal and administrative framework for the management of asylum and assistance to refugees, and the use of its existing migration management system as a vehicle for providing refugees with the right to work and reliable access to services. In doing so, UNHCR has continued to encourage the Government to become a signatory to the Refugee Convention and its Protocol.
The lack of legal protection in Malaysia means that urban refugees face grave protection risks on a daily basis. Without legal status in the country, refugees face the risk of refoulement, or of arbitrary detention, and they lack legal safeguards in the event they are victims of crimes.
Without the right to work and reliable livelihood opportunities, they face substantial difficulties in accessing affordable health care and social services, resulting in a largely non-existent social safety net for women and children at risk.
As they are not allowed to attend government schools, refugee children do not have access to basic education. The fear of arrest and lack of legal status also severely constrain the ability of refugee communities to help themselves.
Durable solutions remain challenging for the refugee population, as conditions in their countries of origin remain difficult.
Positive changes in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are welcome developments, and progress there will be closely monitored. While UNHCR has a comparatively large resettlement programme in Malaysia, the number of refugees in the country means that those being resettled represent a comparatively small portion of the overall population.
As the Government does not assume responsibility for asylum management, UNHCR remains challenged by the large number of people present in the country who look to UNHCR for registration, refugee status determination (RSD) and documentation, as well as support in the event they are arrested. The Office is also challenged by the need to monitor detention facilities and work to secure the release of refugees, while supporting health, education and community-based self-reliance programmes and promoting durable solutions.
Given the large migrant population in Malaysia, and the country's ongoing need for foreign workers, there may be opportunities to improve conditions for refugees, bringing them to a level similar to that of legal migrants.
|UNHCR 2013 planning figures for Malaysia|
|TYPE OF POPULATION||ORIGIN||JAN 2013||DEC 2013|
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
|Persons in refugee-like situations||Myanmar||30||30||30||30|
|Others of concern||Philippines||80,000||80,000||80,000||80,000|
Main objectives and targets for 2013
Fair protection processes and documentation
Access to RSD procedures, and their quality, is improved.
All RSD procedures are consistent with international standards.
Some 90 per cent of people of concern have access to status-determination procedures.
Asylum-seekers are notified of the result of their application within 70 days of the first interview, and within 110 days of the submission of an appeal.
Basic needs and essential services
The health status of the population of concern is improved.
Some 39 per cent of people of concern have access to primary health care.
The population of concern has optimal access to education.
Approximately 10 per cent of the population of concern aged 14-17 is enrolled in secondary school.
Some 62 per cent of the population of concern aged 6-11 attends primary school.
Community empowerment and self-reliance
Self-reliance and livelihoods are improved.
Some 10 per cent of people of concern run their own businesses or are self-employed for more than 12 months.
Community mobilization is strengthened and expanded.
Some 50 per cent of people of concern are represented in leadership management structures.
Strategy and activities in 2013
Given the absence of a legislative and administrative framework to protect refugees, and the non-involvement of the Government in receiving and processing people of concern, UNHCR will continue to register asylum-seekers, undertake RSD and issue identity documents. Registration will continue for the remaining unregistered asylum-seekers in the country as well as new arrivals. UNHCR will continue to intervene to prevent the arrest, detention and refoulement of people of concern, as well as to secure their release where necessary.
UNHCR will continue to urge the Government to enact a legal framework for the protection of people of concern, and to put in place an administrative framework to ensure the implementation of refugee law, while also advocating for refugees to have the right to work and access to services. It will maintain its longer-term aim of having the Government accede to the Refugee Convention and its Protocol.
The working relationship between UNHCR and the Malaysian Government has improved, with constructive engagement in a variety of areas, including recognition of UNHCR documentation and access to refugees in immigration detention. However, many other areas, including education, health care and employment, still require further attention.
UNHCR will continue to promote durable solutions for all refugee populations in Malaysia. Given the lack of prospects for local integration, resettlement and voluntary return are the most viable options for most refugees.
To diversify resettlement to a range of resettlement countries, including newly emerging ones, UNHCR will promote fair and balanced resettlement opportunities for refugees from Myanmar and other countries.
UNHCR will continue to support refugee communities, while also working with its partners to provide assistance in the areas of basic needs and access to essential services, with a particular focus on health, education, community development and self-reliance.
Furthermore, UNHCR will advocate for the Government of Malaysia to allow Filipino Muslims in Sabah and other stateless populations to remain in the country. It will mobilize civil-society groups to gain a better understanding of their situation, and identify any potential for change. As sufficient funding becomes available, UNHCR will increase its activities in Sabah.
The Government has not taken any decision on the issuance of work permits to refugees. UNHCR will continue to urge the Government to allow refugees to work, as the lack of this right has an enormous impact on this population.
Partner capacity in Malaysia remains limited, especially in the absence of international NGOs. UNHCR's local partners are committed to assisting refugees and asylum-seekers, but their programmes are small, and their capacity to expand remains restricted. At present, the partners working on refugee welfare and assistance in Malaysia are unable to mobilize the additional resources needed for the task.
Organization and implementation
UNHCR Malaysia's operational strategy will require strong cooperation with partners. Contributions from civil society and NGOs, the Malaysian Government and the refugee communities themselves will be central to the shared effort. At the operational level, given the large numbers of urban refugees and asylum-seekers, refugee communities are crucial partners in a sustained effort to address the wide array of protection and assistance needs.
The 2013 budget reflects the comprehensive needs of the populations of concern in Malaysia, while taking into account implementation capacity. UNHCR's requirements in Malaysia will amount to USD 17.4 million in 2013.
Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2013 Update
UNHCR contact information
|UNHCR Representation in Malaysia|
|Style of Address||UNHCR Representative in Malaysia|
|Street Address||570 Jalan Bukit Petaling
50460, Kuala Lumpur
|Mailing Address||P.O. Box 10185
50706, Kuala Lumpur
|Telephone||+60 3 2141 1322|
|Facsimile||+60 3 2141 1780|
|Time Zone||GMT + 8:00|
|Public Holidays||01 January 2011 - New Year's Day
03 February 2011 - 04 February 2011 - Chinese New
02 May 2011 - Labour Day
30 August 2011 - 31 August 2011 - Eid Fitri
31 August 2011 - National Day
16 September 2011 - Malaysia Day
26 October 2011 - Deepavali
07 November 2011 - Eid Al-Adha
26 December 2011 - Christmas