PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has appealed to Malaysians to understand the unfortunate circumstances faced by refugees forced to flee from their home to our shores.
It said that refugees were seeking a temporary place for their safety and survival.
"Malaysians, as a whole, should undertake to ensure the refugee community in the country will be treated with dignity and have their basic needs met, ultimately leading to a more humane, just, inclusive and equal society," Suhakam said in a statement on Sunday (June 20) in conjunction with World Refugee Day.
Suhakam said that the world could not overcome Covid-19 if it overlooks refugees, or anyone for that matter, as no one is safe until everyone is safe.
It urged the government to adopt comprehensive, inclusive, non-discriminatory and long-term refugee protection policies in the country; while maintaining its international leadership, in terms of deepening cooperation with regional and international communities to identify lasting solutions to the longstanding refugee issues in Southeast Asia.
According to the data from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia, as of May 2021, there were 179,570 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, of whom 45,980 are children below the age of 18.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol. It lacks a legal or administrative framework to regulate the status and rights of refugees.
Refugees are considered undocumented migrants under immigration laws in Malaysia and are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.
While refugees are not allowed to work legally, many of them work informally.
Their access to basic needs such as education, healthcare, and social protection is still not a given, even for UNHCR cardholders.