Refugees in Malaysia

Unlike migrants, refugees do not choose to leave their countries. They are compelled to do so due to difficult living conditions at their home countries caused by war, persecution, armed conflict and complex human rights issues.

In Malaysia, the various refugee communities are scattered throughout, but they live mostly in the Klang Valley. There are no refugee camps in Malaysia. Instead, refugees share living spaces in groups of up to 20 people or more, living in low-cost flats or housing areas side by side with local Malaysian homes in cities and small towns. Many also live near the construction sites or plantations where they seek employment.

The situation of refugees is difficult as a result of their lack of official status.


  • They have no access to legal employment.

  • They tend to work in jobs that the local population do not wish to take (the 3D jobs: dirty, dangerous and difficult). Some employers exploit their dire situation by paying extremely low or no wages at all.

  • Their children do not have access to formal education; however, some children are able to attend community schools.



Life as a Refugee in Malaysia, a UNHCR slideshow.