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.

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 legal and protection issues relating to the prevention and response to detention of 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.
  • REGULAR DIALOGUE with relevant Government agencies, civil society partners and refugee communities on various legal and protection 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.
  • In May, the Protection Unit together with the Multi-functional Team conducted a dialogue session with the National Registration Department to discuss various matters related to birth registration of Persons of Concern.
  • The Unit held a dialogue session with the Immigration Director for Detention & Depot Management Division on UNHCR’s mandate and operations and various other issues related to the detention and release process of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.


*Numbers include merged Registration-RSD interviews and assessments conducted in detention for two categories of detainees:

i) Those unregistered prior to detention (903), and ii) those who underwent basic registration prior to detention (66)

** Numbers include individuals released from IDCs, prisons, police and immigration lock-ups.


In May 2018, 188 Adult Male, 1 Adult Female and 8 Minor Male were newly registered


*18 children remain in detention as of Mid-May 2018,
UAM = Unaccompanied Minor 
SC =Separated child 
With family = Detained with family


Locations of Immigration Detention Centres in West Malaysia