As we live our day-to-day lives with comfort and ease, it is easy to forget the many courageous refugees who were forced to flee their home countries amidst war and persecution. World Refugee Day on 20 June is a timely reminder of why it is important to understand the plight of refugees. Countless innocent families are desperate for a new beginning and dependent on donatives to rebuild their lives.
Even after fleeing the dangers back home, refugees face a harsh future. Aside from the challenges of starting anew in a foreign land, they are at risk of exploitation and often treated as an outsider undeserving of the same rights that locals share. Some continue to face life-threatening circumstances with no reliable authority at their defence. Is it truly a new beginning for refugees if they continue to live in egregious conditions?
Malaysia plays host to 182,960 asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR. Yet, Malaysia remains absent of an effective legal framework to provide refugees with legitimate rights and citizenship. This complicated predicament leaves millions of refugees to be considered illegal immigrants as the Malaysian law makes no distinction between refugees and undocumented migrants. The lack of legal protection places refugees in a vulnerable position with a risk of being arrested for immigration offences or even face deportation. The legal disparity towards refugees in Malaysia is precisely why we need to support organisations working to provide all refugees with aid where it is needed. If you would like to do your part, here are 10 organisations committed to saving lives and building a better future for refugees.
1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is perhaps the largest international organisation devoted to serving asylum seekers and internally displaced individuals all around the globe, while maintaining international peace and security. UNCHR seeks to provide long-term humanitarian solutions for refugees by ensuring their basic necessities are met. Aside from dietary needs, the organisation also supplies shelter, healthcare, protection, as well as education through cooperation with government and civil society partners.
2. Asylum Access Malaysia
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Launched in 2014, Asylum Access Malaysia focuses on systematic change and advocates for the Malaysian law to provide refugees with legal protection and rights. The organisation’s refugee legal aid program assists refugees and asylum seekers with direct legal services as well as a ‘Know-Your-Options’ workshop to share legal and practical advice covering education, livelihood, healthcare, protection, and justice. With the right knowledge and resources, refugees can successfully navigate the UNHCR Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process and benefit from other legal protections that may prevent detention. Ultimately, the goal at Asylum Access Malaysia is to help asylum seekers rebuild their lives in a safer environment.
3. Refuge for the Refugees
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Refuge For The Refugees was founded by Heidy Quah at the young age of just 18 years old, driven by a passion to help provide refugees in Malaysia with basic education facilities and entrepreneurial skills they can utilise to generate income for their families. Quah established 10 refugee schools across Malaysia and 25 schools across Myanmar, which have greatly benefited the lives of over 2,500 children. The schools help them achieve recognised qualifications that allow them to further pursue opportunities, giving the refugee community a chance at a life they deserve. Aside from education, Refuge For The Refugees also encourages self-sustainability projects by providing beneficiaries with the necessary means to run their own businesses, such as selling baked goods. Donations are accepted, with details on their website.
4. Refugee Network Center Malaysia
Established in March 2019, the Refugee Network Center is run by refugees, for refugees. The organisation aims to support refugees of any backgrounds by enhancing skills that can help them build a sustainable life. Some of their classes include language, art, handicraft, and grooming. Additionally, the organisation also partners up with job agencies to help refugees find placements. The Refugee Network Center is led by teachers, social workers, interpreters, students, artists, and more. They collectively share the same goal of supporting refugees to be capable citizens in a diverse and connected world.
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5. Somali Women Association Malaysia
The Somali Women Association Malaysia is a non-profit organisation established to support and promote Somali women’s independence, leadership, entrepreneurship, and cultural family values. The vision at Somali Women Association is to create an actively supportive and secure community that will empower women and their families to thrive. They also offer community-building services such as counselling, and access to personal development and enrichment for quality living. A pressing issue that the organisation is diligently trying to tackle is illiteracy among women and children. The organisation provides Bahasa Malaysia and English language classes to help them communicate and adapt to life in Malaysia.
6. Doctors On Ground
Doctors On Ground is a medical non-profit organisation that provides community development and sustainable healthcare solutions for minority groups in Malaysia. Officially started in early 2021, Doctors On Ground has provided medical funding and aid to over 3,000 families spanning across eight states. The organisation works with government and community organisations to ensure proper distribution of resources and medical aid to those in need.
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7. Human Aid Selangor Society
Human Aid Selangor Society provides humanitarian services to the most vulnerable displaced communities living in Malaysia, who have been denied rights to education and livelihoods. The organisation focuses on the welfare of the Rohingya people living in the urban areas of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, particularly marginalized communities comprising of refugees, stateless and undocumented asylum seekers. The Human Aid Selangor Society has also established the Rainbow of Love Learning Centre to provide learning opportunities for displaced children and their families.
8. Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation dedicated to assisting life-saving emergencies and providing medical aid for individuals affected by armed conflict, epidemics, pandemics, natural disasters, and healthcare exclusion. The organisation serves in over 70 countries worldwide. They are devoted to providing quality medical care to all patients, regardless of the challenging settings and limited resources in the field. In Malaysia, the organisation has set up a primary healthcare facility in a Penang neighbourhood where migrants from many different countries have settled. The organisation has also developed strong connections with fishermen communities in Langkawi, where migrants are known to disembark.
9. The Peace Education Centre (T-PEC)
Serving as a safe haven for refugee children to live, learn, and play, The Peace Education Centre helps them to reach their potential while also providing shelter and resources. Primarily focusing on the Myanmarese refugee community, the centre hopes to help these children receive comprehensive education from nursery school to secondary school. They aim to not only provide education and practical skills, but also aid them with permanent resettlement in countries like Australia and USA.
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Support communities in need through yummy eats cooked by refugees of different cultures and backgrounds. The foundations of PichaEats started from an idea sparked during a meal with refugee students on how the public can help refugees gain the financial stability to, provide their children with education. Since 2016, PichaEats has given back RM2.5 million to refugee chefs to ensure all their children receive education.
Support PichaEats by purchasing their meals here.
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