World Refugee Day 2022: UNHCR, Government, partners reiterate commitment to persons forced to flee

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today commemorated World Refugee Day with the Government, civil society, the private sector, and refugee communities.

UNHCR Malaysia News   © UNHCR Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 20 June 2022 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today commemorated World Refugee Day with the Government, civil society, the private sector, and refugee communities, at its newly renovated Refugee Centre in its office, here this afternoon. 

On World Refugee Day, communities of the world honour the courage, strength and contributions of the millions of people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, war or persecution. It’s a day to remember that with help from welcoming communities and neighbours, people can rebuild their lives and their networks, and even thrive.

In a video message specially recorded for the occasion, Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Saifuddin Abdullah reinforced Malaysia’s continued commitment to refugee protection.

“Although Malaysia is not a State Party to the Refugees Convention, we support the Global Compact for Refugees, which aims to strengthen international response to large movements of refugees,” said Dato’ Sri Saifuddin. 

“For the past decades, we have allowed those seeking international protection to remain temporarily in the country and provided them with assistance and facilitation based on humanitarian grounds. Most of them are hoping to eventually return to their country of origin while some of them are resettled in third countries to start a new life.”

The Foreign Minister also recognised the contribution made by UNHCR in assisting Malaysia in managing refugee populations in the country, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring refugees came forward for vaccination. 

“As the Co-Chair of the Joint Task Force on refugee issues with UNHCR, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates its commitment to continue to facilitate communication and cooperation between UNHCR and the relevant Government agencies,” he added. 

“Moving forward, the Government is currently deliberating on reforming Malaysia’s refugee policy that would lead to a more holistic approach in our management of asylum-seekers and refugees. Towards that end, we urge the cooperation and support of all stakeholders. 

“As we have seen in various conflict areas in the world, including in Europe where open wars were thought as to be a matter of the past, refugees and asylum-seekers are not going to go away any time soon. It is thus the collective responsibility of the international community, including Malaysia, to seek realistic and sustainable solutions to the refugee crisis in the long term, in a manner that would safeguard their safety and dignity, while ensuring the host country’s sovereignty and security.”

The Minister also reflected on the worrying worldwide trend of xenophobia and scapegoating of vulnerable communities like refugees, especially in a time of crisis.

“In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the fault lines in our society, especially for vulnerable groups, including refugees. We have seen increasingly hostile sentiments against refugees from all sides – be it among politicians, the media, and the public,” Dato’ Seri Saifuddin said.

“In a crisis situation and when resources become scarce, it is easy to point fingers and put the blame on others. We acknowledge that there is a real need for all stakeholders to come together to bridge the gap in perception, understanding, and awareness when it comes to refugee matters in the country.”

UNHCR Representative Thomas Albrecht expressed appreciation to the many stakeholders, including the Malaysian Government, for their continued support in strengthening the protection environment for refugees in the country. 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today commemorated World Refugee Day with the Government, civil society, the private sector, and refugee communities.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today commemorated World Refugee Day with the Government, civil society, the private sector, and refugee communities.   © UNHCR/AzrilAbdulManaf

“In our outreach work, we have found tremendous support and generosity from all sectors: from refugees themselves, the diplomatic corps, NGOs, Governments, Members of Parliament, ordinary Malaysians – all of whom have worked tirelessly to help refugee communities and are here with us today. I am proud to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you in building an environment where refugees are safe and welcomed,” said Albrecht.

UNHCR also remains committed in its on-going cooperation with the Malaysian Government to find ways that better protect refugees which, at the same time, address any legitimate national concerns.

“The Malaysian Government has maintained a positive level of cooperation with UNHCR in managing refugee protection and complex forced migration challenges in the country, which UNHCR deeply values. 

“What we would like to see is for refugees to have enhanced protection and opportunities for solutions, to have affordable access to healthcare, livelihoods, and education so that they can become more self-reliant, meaningfully contribute to Malaysian society, and rebuild their own communities when it is safe to return home.” 

World Refugee Day is commemorated this year amidst a grim milestone: the number of people forced to flee conflict, war, persecution and human rights abuses crossed the 100 million mark for the first time on record. 

In its Global Trends report released ahead of World Refugee Day, UNHCR stated that the number of people forced to flee their homes has increased every year over the past decade and stands at the highest level since records began, a trend that can be only reversed by a new, concerted push towards peacemaking.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, "Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.”     

“While we’re witnessing appalling new refugee situations, and existing ones reigniting or remaining unresolved, there are also examples of countries and communities working together to pursue solutions for the displaced,” Grandi added. "It's happening in places - for example the regional cooperation to repatriate Ivorians – but these important decisions need to be replicated or scaled up elsewhere."