At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

Malaysia lacks immigration policy, NGOs say

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

To mark the commemoration of the World Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a FORUM-ASIA member, launched a report entitled “Undocumented Migrants and Refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination”, which highlighted the problems facing migrants as part of Malaysia’s current immigration practices. According to the report, the country has “not put in place any consistent national immigration policy”.

Publication of a FIDH – SUARAM mission report "Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, detention and Discrimination" 

To mark the commemoration of the World Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), its member organization in Malaysia, launched a report entitled “Undocumented Migrants and Refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination”.

There are no present statistics on the number of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia, however according to estimates there are 1.8 million registered (or documented) migrant workers and about 5 million undocumented migrant workers.

“Migrant workers account for about 30-50 percent of the total Malaysian labour force. In spite of the important contribution that this represents to the Malaysian economy, the authorities have not put in place any consistent national immigration policy,” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.

Undocumented migrants are usually employed in “3D jobs” (dirty, dangerous and difficult) and are not adequately protected against unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers. Domestic legislation does not provide for specific protection for refugees, asylum-seekers or trafficked persons. Only a temporary residency permit, or IMM 13 visas, offer de facto protection for refugees against refoulement. Domestic legislation provides insufficient protection of child refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular in regard to access to education. The detention of children for immigration purposes, which is commonplace, should be prohibited.

The People's Volunteer Corps, RELA, a volunteer force composed of more than 400,000 reservists, is meant to safeguard peace and security in the country. In times of peace, it contributes to the enforcement of the immigration law. The lack of training and supervision of RELA members are major concerns.

"RELA carries out raids against migrants without distinction between undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees and with the unnecessary use of force. The Malaysian authorities should immediately cease the use of RELA officers in the enforcement of immigration law," said SUARAM Executive Director Swee Seng Yap.

The Immigration Act raises a number of concerns in regard to the administration of justice: the length of time a migrant arrested under the Act may be held before being brought before a magistrate is overly long (14 days); detention may even be indeterminate pending removal; the exclusion of the right to challenge decisions under the Act on a number of grounds; and the absence of specific protection for migrants in cases of abuse by employers or in relation to unpaid wages.

The report documents the poor conditions of detention, particularly in “immigration depots “. Overcrowded facilities are leading to breaches of basic standards of hygiene, insufficient diet and health care, the ill treatment of detainees and the failure to adequately protect women and children in detention.

FIDH urges the Malaysian authorities to amend the Immigration Act with a view to ensuring that violations of provisions relating to migration are not dealt with in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile and as a minimum, the sentence of whipping should be abolished as corporal punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, and the maximum term of imprisonment provided for immigration offences should be reduced.

“Up to now, the government has been adopting a punitive approach to the issue of migration: the poor conditions of detention of migrants in the immigration detention centers and the fact that they can be condemned to corporal punishment (whipping) are part of this policy. The time has come for a comprehensive policy on migration based on international human rights standards,” said Cynthia Gabriel, Vice-president of FIDH and a SUARAM board member. “We call upon the newly elected parliamentarians to consider our recommendations and to put aside the RELA Bill that was tabled last year for first reading.”

Press contact:
In Paris: Karine Appy +33 1 43 55 14 12/+33 1 43 55 25 18;
[email protected]
In Kuala Lumpur: Yap Swee Seng +603 7784 3525/+6012 2015272; [email protected]