Operation: Opération: Malaysia



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Key Figures

2018 year-end results
46,910 UNHCR identity cards were issued
23,760 new registrations were carried out
21,600 refugee status determination decisions issued
2,410 refugees departed for resettlement
145 refugees voluntarily repatriated
2017 year-end results
74,000 new UNHCR identity cards were issued
22,600 people were registered
5,470 merged registration and RSD decisions were taken 
3,290 refugees benefited from resettlement
3,000 people of concern were released from immigration detention
133 community learning centres were supported, enabling more boys and girls to access education at different levels, particularly primary education

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2018 252,742
2017 241,438
2016 239,505


[["Refugees",120235],["Refugee-like situation",1067],["Asylum-seekers",41809],["Stateless",9631],["Others of concern",80000]]
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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[20.14792774,18.700609605,19.68385869,18.52558777,16.59339717,17.94919554],"expenditure":[9.27775765,9.22236626,8.25204939,8.06779698,8.30928286,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[18.91642575,17.462795085,18.71080951,18.00827372,15.84174178,17.08860191],"p2":[1.23150199,1.23781452,0.97304918,0.51731405,0.75165539,0.86059363],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[8.89931743,8.40919325,7.57517327,7.72566217,8.17526165,null],"p2":[0.37844022,0.81317301,0.67687612,0.34213481,0.13402121,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational environment

A new Government was elected in 2018 on a platform which included the promise to regularise the status of UNHCR card holders, granting asylum seekers and refugees work rights on par with Malaysian nationals. While the absence of a refugee policy continued to restrict the protection space for refugees and asylum-seekers, limiting their capacity for self-reliance, there are signs of a deeper engagement on a refugee policy involving a range of Government agencies, civil society, UNHCR and other stakeholders.

UNHCR continued to strengthen and expand partner and refugee community networks as the primary source of assistance and protection. A strengthened engagement with government authorities resulted in higher levels of confidence in UNHCR’s processes and documentation and therefore fewer arrests and detention of refugees and asylum-seekers. 

Population trends

Some 163,100 refugees and asylum-seekers were registered with UNHCR at the end of 2018. Of these, 87% are from Myanmar, with Rohingya refugees making up more than half the total registered population (82,900). More than 9,600 people are registered as stateless in Malaysia, but the total number of stateless persons in Malaysia remains unknown. The Government estimates that more than 59,200 Filipino refugees remain in East Malaysia. 

Key achievements

  • 60 refugee youths enrolled in university programmes, with three refugees graduating.
  • 130 community learning centres supported.
  • 1,000 people received protection counselling.
  • 2,400 people received livelihood assistance.
  • 3,700 people were released from immigration detention.
  • 12,900 children enrolled in learning centres.
  • 31,500 health consultations provided through an expanded network of private primary care clinics offering discounted services. 

Unmet needs

In the absence of a refugee policy and with limited resources available, gaps remained in meeting the needs of the population. The ability of refugees to become self-reliant, access and afford basic services as well as to become meaningful contributors in society is impeded, and results in UNHCR and its partners remaining important providers of support. Refugees, especially women, in Malaysia struggle with unemployment; high debts; access to health and education; and security.
Certified and accredited education for refugee children at the primary and secondary levels represents a large need, with youth, particularly girls, receiving inadequate attention due to lack of resources and opportunities in secondary education, vocational and life-skills training.
Participation of refugee women in community leadership remains a challenge in the absence of support structures, gender awareness and opportunities. 

Working environment

Malaysia is not a party to the 1951 convention, to its 1967 protocol nor to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness conventions. Furthermore, it has no national refugee law or policy framework. While legislation makes no explicit reference to refugees or asylum-seekers, any illegal entry or stay in the country is deemed punishable by law, with no exemptions for people of concern to UNHCR.
There are currently close to 149,500 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia and 12,350 stateless persons in West Malaysia.
UNHCR maintains a strong operational presence in the country and conducts all activities related to the registration, documentation, refugee status determination and solutions of and for refugees and asylum-seekers, with an increasing focus on community-based protection (including 47 cases referred by partners), particularly health, education and livelihoods.
Most refugees are de-facto integrated into the urban fabric of the Malaysian community as part of a larger, unregulated migrant economy of between four and five million people. Despite the socio-economic opportunities for refugees in Malaysia, the absence of legal status puts persons of concern to UNHCR at greater risk of detention, as well as heightened vulnerability to exploitation and abuse in the workforce, and generally poor health and education outcomes.

Key priorities

In 2018, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Assisting refugee communities to become more resilient and self-reliant in order to better shape solutions for themselves, in alignment with the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan;
  • Building community resilience through community-based protection that will be mainstreamed into all protection and assistance interventions. UNHCR will continue to train staff and partners on community-based protection approaches and models;
  • Prioritizing the identification of and support to individuals and groups with the highest protection needs and vulnerabilities, including registration of those in detention, unaccompanied and separated children, victims of SGBV, isolated communities, LGBTI and trafficking victims;
  • Increasing registration coverage and robust decision-making in relation to refugee status determination. Increased school enrollment for primary school children and expanding the medical insurance scheme to cover all persons of concern. Ensuring that SGBV prevention and response programmes are fully integrated within communities.
Latest contributions
  • 17-JUL-2019
  • 16-JUL-2019
  • 11-JUL-2019
  • 10-JUL-2019
  • 08-JUL-2019
    European Union
  • Kuwait
  • 05-JUL-2019
  • 04-JUL-2019

    private donors

  • European Union
  • Japan
  • 03-JUL-2019
  • 02-JUL-2019
  • 30-JUN-2019

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Sweden

    private donors

  • Spain
  • Oman

    private donors

  • United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • Kuwait

    private donors

  • Saudi Arabia

    private donors