Goal 2: Legal and Policy Framework For Refugees and Stateless People In Malaysia

For refugees, a legal framework that provides for their orderly registration and documentation, including the right to work while in Malaysia temporarily, is a ‘win-win’ for all stakeholders.

  • The Government of Malaysia will be better able to deal with criminality, smuggling and trafficking if a proper system of registration, including biometric data collection and identity cards, is employed;
  • Refugees with temporary lawful status, would be less at risk of exploitation, more self-reliant and less dependent on support from the state or UNHCR;
  • Legal access to health, education and vocational training would benefit all parties, and reduce dependency and ‘tax payer’ costs;
  • Malaysia’s leadership on humanitarian issues in the region would be reinforced by treatment of refugees that is consistent with international standards and good practice;
  • Malaysian society would be better protected and have greater confidence that refugee issues are being properly managed without undue burden to the host community.

For certain stateless groups, a better system of birth registration, backed by demographic data collection, will assist the Government’s efforts to identify and manage an ‘invisible’ but important part of the Malaysian population, in line with the Government’s Sustainable Development Goals Roadmap to 2030.

For refugees, the Joint Task Force created in December 2016 will be a forum for closer cooperation between UNHCR and the Government of Malaysia. It will involve policy and operational discussions, information sharing and provide a platform for dialogue with Ministries and Departments on issues such as law reform, alternatives to detention, legal work schemes, access to basic services (including justice, health and education), and statelessness issues.

In parallel with these initiatives, UNHCR will continue to process claimants for refugee protection under its Mandate. Subject to available resources, we will prioritise registration for refugees who have particular vulnerabilities, including separated and unaccompanied children, victims of sexual or gender based violence (SBGV), those suffering from acute physical or mental disabilities, and those at heightened risk of refoulement, including refugees in detention.

To accomplish this goal, we will:


  • Build consensus on policy and legal measures needed for a national policy and legal framework, including cooperation with the Government of Malaysia through the Joint Task Force, established in December 2016;
  • Strengthen cooperation and advocacy with national and regional partners by promoting the benefits flowing from a better managed asylum system for refugees;
  • Provide well researched data and analysis, and guide policy options for the Government, including in alternatives to detention, good practice on asylum management, and cooperation between UNHCR and law enforcement, justice, and related issues;
  • On stateless issues, build on the “Seeds for Solutions” strategy, carried out between 2014-2016 by supporting Federal and State-level authorities and local civil society stakeholders to map identified stateless groups, including in birth registration and documentation;
  • Use the baseline data from Malaysia’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international and regional initiatives to ensure refugees and asylum-seekers are included in national human rights action plans, sustainable development and protection-related plans of action, including anti-trafficking and smuggling initiatives;
  • Conduct a mapping and empirical analysis for key stakeholders who can affect change, including legal and policy basis to access health, education, and work opportunities;
  • Support and develop stronger sectoral partnerships with and between the Government of Malaysia, donors, regional governments, NGOs, CBOs and others;
  • Under its Mandate, ensure that the current system of registration and documentation of refugees, is conducted in a fair, expeditious, and transparent way, giving priority to refugees who have particular vulnerabilities, including those in detention and identified as being at acute risk of harm or exploitation.