Malaysia is a multiracial country and home to many. In fact, following the statistics by the United Nations Development Programme, Malaysia is home to over 30 million individuals. Out of those figures, 170,460 of them are refugees.
A refugee is usually defined as someone who fled his or her home country in hopes of pursuing a better life. In most cases, the reason for their escape is to flee from war, persecution or natural disaster. Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their homes and lives behind for the pursuit of a safer and better life.
Unfortunately, they are not treated well in the countries they find refuge in. In conjunction with World Refugee Day, here are 5 Malaysian NGOs working to empower and protect the rights of refugees.
Founded in 1991, Tenaganita works to promote and protect the rights and dignity of women, migrants and refugees. Through their Refugee Action Programme, the organisation assists refugees on labour rights, civil rights (arrest and detention) and gender-based violence.
For instance, the institution works directly with the Coalition of Burma Ethnics in Malaysia (COBEM) to support the work of eight community based organisations (CBOs). These CBOs assist the various ethnic nationalities from Burma in different aspects.
Firstly, they work to protect refugees by documenting the information on raids and arrests. They also visit and advocate on behalf of the detainees in immigration facilities and gather information on security and protection issues.
As for employment, the organisation helps refugees get jobs, ensure they are paid well and carry out legal action if any violations were to occur to the workers.
2. Rainbow of Love School
Rainbow of Love School also known as Pelangi Kasih is a learning centre that was set up for Myanmar refugees. The school not only teaches Myanmar kids academic lessons and co-curricular but also instils moral values in their lessons.
Here’s a rundown of lesson plans at the school.
On weekdays, in the morning until noon, academic lessons are carried out. After that, from 2 pm to 4pm, the students attend Quran recitation lessons and from 7pm to 9pm, it is time for Tahfiz classes.
However, the weekends are their off days. Taekwondo lessons are held for an hour.
3. Mercy Malaysia
Being the popular one on the list, Mercy Malaysia contributes in the aspects of health care, disaster risk reduction, water sanitation and hygiene. As a matter of fact, the organisation has gone above and beyond to help refugees.
In 2010, the institution opened up an outreach clinic for the Rohingya refugees in Kota Tinggi and Kulai, Johor. 77 volunteers came together to set up clinics and carry out basic medical health screenings and medical consultations. Aside from that hygiene kits and goodie bags were also distributed.
Thankfully, their efforts paid off as 207 detainees benefited from the outreach clinic.
4. Asylum Access Malaysia
Launched in 2014, Asylum Access Malaysia (AAM) is a Malaysian-registered NGO. The NGO is a part of the Asylum Access family of organisations.
Since Malaysia isn’t a part of the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees in Malaysia do not have access to basic rights that includes legal status, safe and lawful employment, formal education and equal protection from the law. This inevitably makes them vulnerable to arrest, detention and exploitation.
Thankfully, AAM is making a difference. The organisation provides legal services for refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, they also conduct their Know-Your-Options training sessions that speaks of the basic fundamental rights that refugees are entitled to. The institution also engages in conversation with influential NGOs like UNHCR and other stakeholders.
These efforts make it easier for refugees to navigate their way through the UNHCR Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process. This increases the probability of them living in Malaysia safely.
Rumour has it that AAM is also in talks to build a legal aid network for refugees in the country.
5. World Vision Malaysia
World Vision Malaysia is an international Christian humanitarian institution. The organisation is dedicated to working with children and families to overcome poverty and injustice. Despite it being a Christian establishment, World Vision provide its services to any individual regardless of their race, religion, or gender.
Since its formation in the 1950s, the establishment has helped over 100 million people through its various development, humanitarian and emergency relief programmes. In fact, they responded to the Syrian conflict which forced out 11 million people from their homes.
World Vision assists in displacing and hosting refugees. The organisation also provides food assistance, emergency supplies, water and sanitation, health, education and child protection interventions to children and families in need.
Miss Universe Malaysia 2011, Deborah Henry even took part in this movement in 2016. She personally conducted a fundraiser for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The fundraiser ran for four months.
It’s always nice to see people coming together to make the world a better place. It’s admirable that these organisations are fighting for the less fortunate. After all, despite our differences, each individual deserves their basic fundamental rights.
Featured image source: Flickr Creative Commons/Foreign and Commonwealth Office