Protection in Malaysia


The agency does this in several ways: it ensures that refugees will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they could face persecution. Longer term, the organization helps refugees find appropriate durable solutions to their plight, by repatriating voluntarily to their homeland, integrating in countries of asylum or resettling in third countries.

As there are no legislative or administrative provisions in place for dealing with the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, UNHCR conducts all activities related to the protection of refugees namely the reception, registration, documentation and refugee status determination of asylum-seekers and refugees.

UNHCR also promotes or provides legal and physical protection, and minimize the threat of violence which many refugees are subject to, even in countries of asylum. As part of its humanitarian support for refugees, UNHCR cooperates with various partners including government agencies, donor countries, Non-Governmental Organisations and volunteers to:

  • Provide assistance for refugees in a variety of areas including healthcare, education, financial support for vulnerable individuals, shelter, counseling and other welfare needs;
  • Provide outreach and community development support to refugee communities;
  • Carry out detention monitoring and intervention;
  • Provide legal representation in court for offences under the Immigration Act;
  • Carry out advocacy, capacity-building, training with the refugees, Government, media and civil society partners;
  • Mobilize resources including corporate and public fundraising;
  • Support durable solutions for refugees, including resettlement to countries comprising, among others, the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, and the Czech.



Releases from detention in the period of Jan – Dec 2016, through direct intervention by UNHCR.


Releases from detention since Jan 2017, through direct intervention by UNHCR.


Responses to calls on arrests since Jan 2017


Law enforcement officers and relevant stakeholders briefed on UNHCR processes, in Dialogue sessions from Aug – Dec 2016

Activities of the Protection Unit

The Protection Unit regularly engages with relevant Ministries, the Judiciary and legal fraternity, the Immigration Department, Police Department, Maritime Enforcement Agency, and other related stakeholders to address various issues relating to refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia.

The Unit works to promote clarity on the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers and to support the Government of Malaysia in managing refugees within its territory through close cooperation and dialogue with relevant agencies.

  • Detention interventions carried out on a weekly basis to register and to verify refugee status of persons of concern in detention
  • Regular dialogue with relevant Government agencies, civil society partners and refugee communities on various issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
  • Verification of refugee status for relevant enforcement authorities of persons of concern to UNHCR. There is close cooperation with the police in cases of alleged criminality.


Locations of Immigration Detention Centres in West Malaysia


Prevention and response to immigration detention

  • UNHCR’s interventions in detention between 1 January and 28 February 2017 resulted in a total of 667 refugees being released from Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) across Peninsula Malaysia. Between 1 January and 31 December 2016, UNHCR facilitated the releases of 3,490 refugees from IDCs.

Highlights in the Protection Unit between 1 January to 28 February 2017

Responses to arrest calls


Verification letters sent to authorities


Interview visits to Immigration Detention Centres


Individuals registered in detention


Average length of stay in detention

14 months

Refugee children in Immigration Detention Centres

Number of children currently detained         

33   (85 % are Rohingya)

Total number of children detained in 2016   

425 (94% are Rohingya)

Total number of Unaccompanied minors and Separated children (UAMSC) detained in 2016

119 (82% are Rohingya)

Dialogue with law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders

  • UNHCR conducted a series of dialogues with some 1,670 law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders between August and December 2016 on the new UNHCR card, the new Mobile App to verify the cards, and various other protection-related issues.
  • Dialogue sessions with enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders on immigration detention and legal and physical protection issues are slated to continue around the country in the course of 2017.