Help transform broken lives this World Refugee Day and start by being informed about the refugee situation in Malaysia:
1. Most refugees in Malaysia are prosecuted ethnic groups
There are about 155,880 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia as of March 2018. Of them, 89% of them are persecuted ethic groups from Myanmar, comprised of Rohingyas, Chins, Myanmar Muslims, Rakhines, and Arakanese.
2. The rest are from countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine
About 66% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, 34% are women and some 41,000 refugees are children under the age of 18.
3. Many refugees in Malaysia are at risk of deportation or detention
In Malaysia, they are not distinguished from undocumented migrants and are at rick of deportation/detention. They lack access to legal employment and formal education. Even though they are able to access public and private healthcare, this access is often hindered by the cost of treatment and language barriers.
4. Refugees have no access to legal employment
Hence, they tend to work in difficult or dangerous jobs that the rest of the population does not wish to take. They also often face exploitation by employers who take advantage of their situation, paying them low wages, or nothing at all.
5. There are no refugee camps in Malaysia
They live in cities and towns across the country in low-cost apartments or houses. These places are often overcrowded and it’s not uncommon for several families to share one living space.
6. Malaysia is neither party to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 protocol
Our country is also not a part of the 1954 and 1961 U.N. Statelessness Convention and lacks a legal framework for managing refugees. Hence, the UNHCR conducts all activities concerning the registration, documentation, and status determination of refugees.
7. UNCHR began operations in Malaysia in 1975
Which was when Vietnamese refugees arrived in boats in Malaysia and other neighbouring countries. From 1975 to 1996, the UNCHR has helped the Malaysian government in aiding and sheltering Vietnamese refugees. Over those 20 years, over 240,000 Vietnamese were relocated, and about 9,000 were returned home.
8. Malaysia has previously opened its doors to vulnerable populations through government programmes
In 1991, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad backed a scholarship programme for Bosnian Muslims when he heard the Serbs had announced an ethnic cleansing campaign. However during that period, they described participants as “guests” rather than refugees.
9. In 2015, our government has promised to shelter 3,000 Syrian refugees
Syrians will be given temporary residence passes, permission to work and permission to attend school. Even though there are about 1,100 Syrian refugees who are already here, this programme aims to resettle more new refugees.
10. Malaysia has developed a pilot program for Rohingya refugees
As of March 2017, the programme will allow 300 Rohingya refugees to work legally within the country. Successful applicants will be placed in chosen manufacturing and agricultural companies in hopes that forced labour and exploitation will end as well to give refugees the necessary skills set and income to make a living before potential relocation.
Header image source: kwiknews