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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Malaysia

| Overview |

Working environment

  • Malaysia has not yet signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and lacks a formal legislative and administrative framework to address refugee matters.

  • With no work rights, refugees, in particular women and children, tend to be at a high risk of exploitation, particularly refugee children who have no access to government schools.

  • UNHCR works with some partner organizations to support refugee health, education and community empowerment. However, as the non-governmental sector in Malaysia remains limited, the Office also directly implements activities.

  • The Malaysian Government provides access to public health care at a reduced rate for refugees recognized by UNHCR.

  • The Malaysian Government implements strict policies to deter undocumented migrants from its territory. Since refugees and asylum-seekers are not distinguished from undocumented migrants under Malaysian law, they are vulnerable to the same penalties, including arrest, detention and deportation.

People of concern

The asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia, over 100,000 individuals, reside in urban areas, with the majority (90 per cent) originating from Myanmar, and the other 10 per cent from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sri Lanka. Approximately 40,000 people residing in Malaysia are considered stateless; the majority are ethnic Tamils formerly from India.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Malaysia
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 234,920 234,920 242,940 242,940 250,930 250,930
Refugees Myanmar 95,380 95,380 102,070 102,070 108,760 108,760
Various 6,080 6,080 6,520 6,520 6,940 6,940
People in refugee-like situations Myanmar 30 30 30 30 30 30
Various 890 890 900 900 900 900
Asylum-seekers Myanmar 8,400 8,400 8,990 8,990 9,580 9,580
Various 4,140 4,140 4,430 4,430 4,720 4,720
Stateless people Stateless 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000
Others of concern Philippines 80,000 80,000 80,000 80,000 80,000 80,000

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In the next biennium, UNHCR will continue to provide protection to over 100,000 urban asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia from the risk of arrest and detention and maintain efforts to prevent deportation. To this end, the Office will focus on consolidating registration and refugee status determination (RSD) activities and on undertaking regular efforts for the release from detention centres of people of concern arrested for the violation of immigration rules.

Durable solutions will remain necessary, with resettlement as one of the most viable options.

UNHCR will furthermore take action to strengthen access for refugees to basic services, with a particular focus on education (such as increasing the number of children attending primary school) and health (such as facilitating access to essential medical assistance). At the same time, the Office will continue to lobby with the Government for the right to work for refugees.

| Implementation |


UNHCR will continue to work closely with its partners in Malaysia, including the Malaysian Government, other UN organizations, civil society and refugee communities.

At the operational level, given the size of the population of urban refugees and asylum-seekers, the refugee communities will be crucial partners, and a sustained community development effort will be necessary to address the wide array of needs of people of concern.

2014 UNHCR partners in Malaysia
Implementing partners
NGOs: Dignity for Children Foundation, Future Global Network, Kumpulan ACTS, Malaysian Social Research Institute, Partnership in Enterprise, Soroptimist International, Johor Bahru, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Others: UNOPS
Operational partners
NGOs: Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, Archdiocesan Office for Human Development, Bar Council of Malaysia, Bless Community Service, Budimas Orion, Divine Life Society, Federation of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organizations, Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia, Health Equity Initiative, International Catholic Migration Commission, Malaysia Care, Mercy Malaysia, Muslim Aid Malaysia, Muslim Relief Agency, PJ Caring Home, Positive Living Community Home, Praise Emmanuel Shelter, Psychiatric Homecare Services, Purtubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia, Purtubuhan Kebajikan Rose, Pusat Kebajikaan Good Shepherd, Ray of Hope Shelter, Rumah Ozanam, Salvation Army; Shelter Society, Shelter, Home, After Care and Love Home Care; Suka Society, Tamil Forum Malaysia, Tenaganita, Ti-Ratana Welfare Society, Voice of the Children, Women's Aid Organization, Yayasan Chow Kit, Young Women's Christian Association Malaysia
Others: Help Institute, Iverson Associates, Riverbank Academy, Tune Skills Training, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO

| Financial information |

Over the last four years, the financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in Malaysia have steadily increased to respond to the needs of the growing population of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. In 2014, UNHCR's financial requirements for Malaysia are set at USD 20.1 million. Priorities continue to include maintaining access to asylum and implementing durable solutions, as well as addressing the issue of detention and imprisonment and providing continuous support for education, health and livelihood programmes.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105

UNHCR contact information

UNHCR Representation in Malaysia
Style of Address The UNHCR Representative in Malaysia
Street Address 570 Jalan Bukit Petaling, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Mailing Address P.O. Box 10185, 50706 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Telephone 60 3 2118 4800
Facsimile 60 3 2141 1780
Time Zone GMT + 8
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 - 16:00
Tuesday:8:00 - 16:00
Wednesday:8:00 - 16:00
Thursday:8:00 - 16:00
Friday:8:00 - 16:00
Public Holidays 01 January 2014, New Year's Day
31 January 2014, Chinese New Year
03 February 2014, Chinese New Year
01 May 2014, Labour Day
28 July 2014, Eid Al-Fitr
29 July 2014, Eid Al-Fitr
01 September 2014, National Day
06 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha
23 October 2014, Deepavali
25 December 2014, Christmas



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Malaysia [1]
Refugees [2] 97,513
Asylum Seekers [3] 43,039
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 40,000
Various [8] 80,000
Total Population of Concern 260,552
Originating from Malaysia [1]
Refugees [2] 485
Asylum Seekers [3] 283
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 768
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 20,000
2002 20,000
2001 86,255
More info 220,000
USD 220,000 of which 20,000 (9%) unrestricted and USD 200,000 (91%) earmarked.
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2006
2014 0
2013 0
2012 1,287
2011 1,976
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0

Malaysia UNHCR Fundraising Reports Rss FeedUNHCR Fundraising Reports

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Malaysia: Refugees helping themselves

Many Malaysians are astonished to learn that there are refugees living in their country. That's how invisible most of the 67,800 refugees in Malaysian towns and cities are. They don't live in camps, but in low-cost flats and houses alongside the homes of Malaysians. The refugees, overwhelmingly from Myanmar, live in tight-knit groups with as many as 20 or 30 people in one small flat.

As in many other Asian countries, even official UNHCR refugee status does not always afford adequate protection. Refugees are not allowed to work legally, so are subject to exploitation in dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs that locals do not want.

More than in many other countries, refugees in Malaysia have banded together to help themselves in the absence of official services. UNHCR, non-governmental organizations and volunteers support these initiatives, which include small crafts businesses, as well as schools and clinics, but they are largely driven by the refugees themselves.

Malaysia: Refugees helping themselves

Surviving in the City: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Play video

Surviving in the City: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia is a largely urban country, with 60 per cent of the population living in cities. Life for a refugee in Kuala Lumpur is challenging. Refugees cannot work legally and most live in fear of detention, despite having received a refugee card from UNHCR.