Situation in Malaysia
Refugees in Malaysia have no legal status. The Malaysian government provides no legal or administrative framework for refugees, on the basis that it sees refugees as in transit, on the way to a third (resettling) country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has responsibility to register and resettle refugees, and to look after their welfare in Malaysia.
As of January 2023, 158,870 out of the 183,790 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia were from Myanmar. They include 106,500 Rohingya, 23,450 Chin, and 28,920 from other ethnic groups from Myanmar.
A majority, 66% percent, of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, 34% are women, and 48,160 are children below the age of 18. None have any rights to education.
The fact is that resettlement numbers have not been able to meet the demand, meaning that thousands of refugees have been in Malaysia for more than 10 years, some for 30 years and more. The resettlement situation recently has been especially challenging. It is a fact that most refugees in Malaysia will be here for the long-term.
They have no access to free government health care or schooling for their children. They are not allowed to work legally. They are regularly exposed to discrimination and arrest. With no legal documentation, they may be stopped and detained by officers from enforcement agencies at any time.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is finding hope for the future for themselves and their children.
Queuing at the UNHCR Offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to register. Pic: UNHCR
Hoping for a safe place to live to bring up a family.