The Exploitation of Refugees in Malaysia From 2017 until 2022

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Nasnurul Hakimah Bt Nasir


          In Malaysia, 182,120 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR at the end of March 2022. Moreover, Malaysia's resources and geographical position have made it a popular destination for refugees escaping violence, persecution, and human rights violations in their home country. However, Malaysia only serves as a transit country rather than a resettlement country for the refugees. While waiting for all of the procedures to be completed to be placed in a resettlement country, these refugees are subjected to various forms of exploitation from multiple parties. This article aims to investigate what kind of exploitation is faced by the refugees in Malaysia from 2017 until 2022. This article adopted using the qualitative research method. Next, this article was written using primary and secondary data. The primary data was obtained to complete this paper by conducting semi-structured face-to-face interviews and phone calls with five refugees and six locals. The population in this study is Rohingya refugees who worked at construction sites in Terengganu and Syrians who worked at restaurants. Besides, the locals are from three states in Malaysia: Terengganu, Selangor, and Johor. The secondary data used in this study is based on a series of journal publications, working papers, newspapers, reports, and websites, including UNHCR websites. All of the primary and secondary data focused on the exploitation of refugees in Malaysia and refugees in general contribute to triangulating primary data based on empirical knowledge and document confirmation. The findings are four types of exploitation in Malaysia from 2017 until 2022: exploitation of wages by the employer, smugglers, beggar’s syndicate, and local authorities.

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