What is a Refugee?
People who are considered refugees are people who have been forced to leave their place of origin or permanent residence for:
Fear of retaliation due to one’s beliefs, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or other identifiers,
Violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive human rights violations, and other events severely undermined public order.
Refugees in Malaysia
Malaysia hasn’t joined the 1951 Refugee Convention, and there are no specific laws or systems in the country to protect refugees’ rights. As a result, refugees lack access to fundamental rights like legal status, safe jobs, formal education, and equal legal protection. Despite this, Malaysia hosts around 181,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. 85% are from Myanmar, including over 100,000 Rohingyas. The remaining are from 50 other countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. 66% of refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia are men, while 34% are women. Around 49,000 are children below the age of 18. They tend to live in cities and towns across the peninsular, with sizeable populations in Klang Valley, Johor, and Penang.
How to Apply for Asylum in Malaysia
Asylum applications in Malaysia are made through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). To request registration, please submit the New Registration form available on the Refugee Malaysia website. All requests will be processed, but due to the high number of submissions, UNHCR will not be able to respond immediately. The process for application can be lengthy however there are organisations that can help with the process, such as Asylum Access.
What documents do you need to register with UNHCR?
You will need to have access to any available documents relevant to your case, including passports, identity papers, marriage certificate, birth certificate, family census or national identity document, military service booklets, medical certificates, evidence of previous registration with another UNHCR office, UNRWA office or a foreign government.
If you have any UNHCR-issued document such as an identity card, Under Consideration (UC) letter, appointment card, or referral letter, keep them safe and bring them to your appointments.
What are your rights and responsibilities once you’ve registered with UNHCR?
When people register with the UNHCR for international protection, they receive a special card or document. This card shows that they are under the care of the UNHCR. Having this card can help reduce the chances of being arrested or deported to their country of origin where their freedom or lives may be at risk. It also may allow them to get some access to some basic services like healthcare, education, and support from the UNHCR and its partners. However, it’s important to know that the UNHCR card is not a driving license, a legal document, a travel document, or a residency permit. It does not give the person immunity from the law, and doesn’t have any official legal status in Malaysia.
UNHCR card holders are not above the law. Refugees are required to respect the laws and regulations of their country of refuge.