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

Working environment

The operational and political environment in Malaysia continued to be challenging due to the absence of a formal legal or policy framework for refugees.

Due to the lack of a national legislative and administrative framework to provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers, people of concern to UNHCR remained at risk of arrest and detention under relevant immigration laws, and there remains a risk of deportation and refoulement.

Without any lawful status, refugees and asylum-seekers lack access to legal employment opportunities and therefore work in the informal sector, which exposes them to protection risks, including exploitation and harassment, and limits their access to sustainable basic services. 

Population trends

  • In 2016 there were close to 149,500 people of concern to UNHCR in Malaysia. Of these, 89 per cent originated from Myanmar and were mostly Rohingya.
  • An estimated 40,000 unregistered Rohingya live in various parts of the Peninsular Malaysia.
  • A total of 12,350 registered stateless people live in Malaysia.
  • There is currently no reliable data on the extent of the stateless population in East Malaysia. 

Achievements and impact

  • In 2016, 124 community-learning centres in Malaysia were supported and 50 per cent of all boys and girls were able to access primary and secondary education. In addition, 155 refugees gained access to tertiary education through agreements with five universities in the country.
  • In 2016, UNHCR initiated its comprehensive strategy to expand the protection space and accelerate the realisation of durable solutions for refugees by strengthening community-based protection mechanisms, self-reliance initiatives and capacity-building activities for community-based organizations and NGOs.
  • In 2016, there were improved opportunities for dialogue with the Government, particularly through the establishment of the Government of Malaysia-UNHCR Joint Task Force. This will provide a long term forum to discuss policy and operational issues including access to education and work rights, protection and the status of UNHCR Malaysia.
  • In June 2016, the Office launched an innovative bio-metrics data collection system and enhanced ID card. The ID card and the roll-out of a nation-wide dialogue with the police, immigration and public prosecution service has paid dividends with reportedly fewer arrests and criminal prosecution and higher level of confidence, by the Government in UNHCR’s processing arrangements and documentation.
  • Participatory assessments were conducted with over 12,000 individuals – 30 per cent of whom were women and girls – the outcome of which informed the planning and design of UNHCR’s operation plan. 

Unmet needs

  • There is a significant gap between the protection needs of the population and available resources provided by UNHCR and other partners. There are 35,000 Rohingya in need of registration, many of whom with significant vulnerabilities and protection needs. UNHCR has introduced a case management approach that ensures those who are most vulnerable receive prioritised registration and support. However, due to the lack of resources many people of concern will remain in the community for longer periods without registration;
  • UNHCR’s capacity to monitor, visit and register cases in immigration detention centres continued to be limited. With new arrivals, the Office continued to face backlogs in all areas, including registration, RSD, child protection, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and response.
  • Despite an increase in school enrolment, the issue of out of school children remains a major challenge. Similarly many people of concern did not have access to effective health care due to increased cost. Lack of financial resources hindered UNHCR’s ability to further improve access to education and health services. 


In Malaysia, the lack of a legal framework for refugees continues to pose challenges for people of concern. UNHCR advocates with the Government to address protection risks, including by preventing detention and deportation, and improve access to legal support and basic services. UNHCR also seeks to raise awareness of the vulnerability of people of concern to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and trafficking. Recent revelations of mass graves in Malaysia and the Bay of Bengal maritime crisis have highlighted the serious risks to which refugees are exposed.
The Government provides health services to refugees at a discounted rate, complementing UNHCR’s efforts, which include a private health insurance initiative.
Statelessness is high on the political agenda, and UNHCR continues to advocate that the Government develops systems to measure the extent of statelessness situation in Malaysia.
In 2016, UNHCR will continue to focus on ensuring access to asylum procedures and durable solutions, registration, detention release, education, health, and self-sufficiency. The Office’s strategy builds on the processing arrangements launched in 2015. These include a status verification process which has been established for quicker identification of protection needs, prioritizing those with heightened vulnerabilities such as unaccompanied and separated children and victims of SGBV, as well as individuals in detention who need to be registered with UNHCR. Concurrently, solutions will be pursued for other groups of concern: improvements in Myanmar may provide durable solutions opportunities including voluntary repatriation; and UNHCR will also work to promote self-reliance, including through regularization of temporary status and access to income-generating activities.  
Funding shortfalls will adversely affect UNHCR’s ability to ensure refugees’ access to basic services or facilitate the release of people of concern from detention.
Latest contributions
  • 11-OCT-2019
    European Union
  • Netherlands
  • Liechtenstein
  • 10-OCT-2019
  • 07-OCT-2019
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 03-OCT-2019
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 02-OCT-2019
  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2019

    private donors

  • United States of America

    private donors

  • Netherlands

    private donors

  • France

    private donors

  • Mexico

    private donors

  • Italy

    private donors

  • Spain

    private donors

  • Kuwait
  • Denmark
  • Philippines

    private donors

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    private donors

  • Republic of Korea

    private donors