Operation: Opération: Malaysia



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Key Figures

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
2018 planning figures
100% of targeted households’ basic needs will be met through multi-purpose cash grants
98% of people of concern will be registered on individual basis
75% of school-aged children will be enrolled in primary education
15,500 status determination decisions will be issued
8,500 people of concern will be released from immigration detention

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2017 241,438
2016 239,505
2015 246,270


[["Refugees",102849],["Refugee-like situation",990],["Asylum-seekers",47531],["Stateless",10068],["Others of concern",80000]]
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2017 {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"budget":[17.57417343,20.14792774,18.700609605,19.68385869,18.52558777,16.59339717],"expenditure":[9.56685456,9.27775765,9.22236626,8.25204939,8.06779698,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[17.0108112,18.91642575,17.462795085,18.71080951,18.00827372,15.84174178],"p2":[0.56336223,1.23150199,1.23781452,0.97304918,0.51731405,0.75165539],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[9.53511392,8.89931743,8.40919325,7.57517327,7.72566217,null],"p2":[0.03174064,0.37844022,0.81317301,0.67687612,0.34213481,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

Operational context

UNHCR continued to face a challenging operational and political environment in Malaysia due to the absence of a formal legal and policy framework for refugees. The Office initiated its five-year strategy (2017-2021) to expand protection space and accelerate realization of durable solutions for refugees and other people of concern The establishment of a Joint Task Force with the Government covering protection and program areas including health, education, labour migration, registration and refugee status determination (RSD) in 2016, resulted in increased quality and frequency of discussions with key government ministries and departments in 2017. The innovative biometrical data collection and enhanced identity card issuance launched in June 2016 was rolled-out with a nation-wide dialogue and training with the police, immigration and public prosecution’s office. This roll-out resulted in fewer arrests and criminal prosecutions of people of concern and a higher level of confidence by the Government in UNHCR’s processing arrangements and documentation.

Population trends

At the end of 2017, the total number of people of concern was some 152,300; with 87 per cent from Myanmar, of which 43 per cent were Rohingya. An estimated 30,000 people of concern were unregistered, including 25,000 Rohingyas in Peninsular Malaysia.
Out of the close to 12,400 registered stateless persons, some 2,300 acquired nationality. In east Malaysia, the number of Filipino Muslim refugees and their offspring is estimated at 80,000. There is little information readily available on who may be of concern to UNHCR.

Key achievements

  • In terms of healthcare, access to HIV treatment was maintained for 100 per cent of individuals in need of treatment. Furthermore, 93 per cent of people of concern had access to primary health care services and more than 39,600 medical consultations were provided at UNHCR partner clinics. The REMEDI Health Insurance Scheme continued to be promoted and as of year-end, some 30,850 refugees were enrolled.
  • The innovative bio-metrics data collection and enhanced identity card issuance launched in June 2016 was rolled-out with a nation-wide dialogue and training with the police, immigration and public prosecution’s office, generating dividends with considerably fewer arrests and criminal prosecutions and a higher level of confidence by the Government in UNHCR’s processing arrangements and documentation. Analysis of UNHCR’s and partners’ reports, as well as key findings of participatory assessments indicate good progress in protection and assistance.

Unmet needs

Without formal government engagement and access to work rights, public programmes and recognition of status, gaps in the protection needs of the population and available resources remained. Gaps included: a high level of unemployment amongst household members with a baseline study disclosing 92 per cent of people of concern having no savings with a 54 per cent incidence of high debt; primary education at a 52 per cent enrolment rate; in addition to health, security and livelihood challenges especially impacting women and the unregistered population.

Working environment

Malaysia is neither a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol, and lacks a legal framework for managing refugees. Malaysia is not party to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Convention. UNHCR conducts all activities related to the registration, documentation, and status determination of refugees.

Refugees are considered as illegal immigrants, and are at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation. They lack access to legal employment, and work in the informal labour sector where they are at risk of exploitation. Refugees can access healthcare services, but this remains unaffordable to many. Refugees are unable to access formal education. 

93 per cent of refugees are from Myanmar and therefore repatriation opportunities will depend largely on internal developments there. UNHCR will focus on a transitional work-based scheme for former refugees, and on voluntary return for those willing and able to do so. The refugees from northern Rakhine State remain a group with high protection needs, especially in accessing basic services and livelihood opportunities.

In the absence of Government involvement in refugee protection, UNHCR remains the main provider of support for refugees, and thus limitations in the financial and other resources it receives will directly impact its ability to deliver refugee protection. UNHCR’s strategy of engaging new partnerships and strengthening community-based protection is critical in ensuring a greater role of refugees, the Government, private sector, and civil society in addressing basic protection and assistance needs.

Key priorities

In 2017 UNHCR’s operation in Malaysia will focus on:

•    community–based protection; 
•    building resilience of refugee communities, particularly in self-reliance and livelihoods; 
•    ensuring processing is prioritised for highly vulnerable individuals and groups 
•    continuing efforts in areas of detention monitoring and releases, advocating for alternatives to detention; 
•    capacity building of law enforcement officials and institutions; 
•    addressing the protection needs of vulnerable individuals, enhancing sustainability of basic service interventions including in health and education.