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A Vision For Change

A Vision For Change

Refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless people live in a very challenging environment in Malaysia. The country has not acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol or relevant Statelessness Conventions, and there is no legal and policy framework to address their protection and welfare needs.

Refugees are generally seen as illegal or undocumented migrants under the Immigration Act of 1959 and by the host society at large.

With no right to remain in Malaysia lawfully, refugees cannot work legally and have very limited access to quality healthcare and education.
Vision For Change

UNHCR envisages a fundamental change in the way refugees and stateless people are protected and supported in Malaysia over the next five years (2017-2021).

Together with civil society organizations, partner organizations, and the Government of Malaysia, we can:

  • Create a new “compact of solidarity” and cooperation between UNHCR, the Government of Malaysia, NGOs, partners, civil society and refugee communities to empower and support refugees to find sustainable durable solutions;
  • Move from the currently unregulated and vulnerable existence of refugees to one that allows them to reside in Malaysia on a temporary but lawful basis until solutions can be found;
  • Promote opportunities for refugees to enjoy better health and education, including access to services, and to find lawful work employment during their temporary stay;
  • Support the creation of a well-resourced and interactive network of stakeholders from a wide spectrum of business, social, humanitarian and philanthropic interests in Malaysia;
  • Ensure that this cooperation also supports the sovereignty, socio-economic and security interests of the Malaysian people.

To support these objectives, UNHCR Malaysia will support and promote a better integrated and interactive ‘ecosystem’ or network of civil society actors. This will provide a comprehensive, predictable and sustaining environment of protection during refugees’ temporary stay in Malaysia and while durable solutions are found to end their displacement.

“UNHCR foresees an environment where refugees and stateless people belong to self-reliant, empowered, and resilient communities.

They will be able to participate in, and benefit from, all aspects of their protection, including durable solutions. They will be supported by an active and engaged network of civil society in Malaysia and UNHCR.”

In line with UNHCR’s Global Strategic Directions 2017-2021, this document sets out the strategic priorities that UNHCR Malaysia will pursue in the coming five years to achieve its goals. It advances a ‘win-win’ approach, based on a theory of positive change that emphasizes the engagement of multiple stakeholders towards protection and development outcomes that will be benefit both the host community and refugees.

Each of the Pillars and Goals in the Strategy are elements of an integrated approach and are mutually supporting of the others.

The Strategy is underpinned by UNHCR’s commitment to open and transparent consultations and participation, to principles of age, gender and diversity mainstreaming (AGDM) and rights-based approaches. It is reinforced by a rigorous system of accountability, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

Five Key Strategic Pillars


The meaningful participation of refugee communities in all interventions and programming that affect their lives is central to UNHCR Malaysia’s strategic plan. UNHCR will develop and maintain an integrated and cross-cutting community-based protection programme that builds on the resilience, knowledge and skills of refugee communities. This community-based approach will work in close partnership with refugees through participatory assessments and interactive engagement to identify priorities and define programmes. It will allow refugees greater agency to determine their own future and directly contribute to the development of their communities.


UNHCR Malaysia will uphold the Organisation’s highest standards of transparency and integrity throughout all mandated functions of protection and programs. It will build on the foundation, made in 2014-2016, to ensure accountability and integrity of all staff and operational partners. It will provide training to all stakeholders on oversight and risk management and will ensure that protection and support for refugees is not undermined or compromised, including by combatting fraud schemes that endanger refugees. Accountability will include regular consultations with refugee communities, partners, donors, and the Malaysian Government on UNHCR’s procedures and activities.


UNHCR Malaysia will remain the principal advocate for refugees and stateless people living in Malaysia. It will engage in strategic advocacy with multiple stakeholders, including the Government of Malaysia and relevant regional and international bodies to ensure the effective protection of all refugees and stateless people. UNHCR Malaysia will also work to increase public awareness of the plight of refugees, ensuring greater grassroots and community support for refugees.


UNHCR Malaysia will prioritise vulnerable groups and individuals to ensure they have effective access to services from UNHCR, NGOs, refugee communities, and other stakeholders. Access to these services will be provided on an impartial, and non-discriminatory fashion based solely on the protection priorities established by the Organisation. UNHCR’s enhanced registration, processing, and other protection services will prioritise vulnerable persons identified, inter alia, through inter-office and external partner referrals. Sustainable and durable solutions, including resettlement, will be prioritised for those most acutely in need.


Partnership is a crucial component of UNHCR Malaysia’s five year strategy. It envisions a strong protective network of stakeholders that are willing and able to support refugees and stateless persons in Malaysia. To do this, UNHCR Malaysia will actively engage new partners. It will provide capacity-building, training, and other support to new and existing partners. It will strengthen coordination mechanisms between partners to ensure that synergies and resources are used effectively. It will build upon existing partnerships with the Government of Malaysia through policy dialogue, information and data exchange and supported by sound research and empirical evidence.

What We Will Accomplish