Rohingya in Malaysia: Kairul Feature Story
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In Malaysia, refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people are criminalised by domestic law and thus are unable to access healthcare, education or work due to their irregular status.

Our teams provide general healthcare and mental health support to the Rohingya and other communities through our clinic in Butterworth (Klinik Mewah 6), our mobile clinics in Penang, and our activities in detention centres.

We refer patients for specialised healthcare and support an increasing number of sexual violence survivors, including victims, both men and women, of human trafficking. 

Our teams have also established a community-led advocacy group to support refugees in acquiring skills to tackle issues concerning community relations, arrests and detentions, and resettlement.   

Our activities in 2021 in Malaysia

Data and information from the International Activity Report 2021.

MSF in Malaysia in 2021 Despite barriers posed by COVID-19, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to provide general healthcare and mental health support to Rohingya and other refugee communities in Malaysia in 2021.

Our fixed clinic serving refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Butterworth operated throughout the lockdown, but the number of patients dropped, from 11,700 in 2020 to 9,910 in 2021, mainly due to people’s fear of getting arrested at police roadblocks on their way to see us. Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and refugees are effectively criminalised by domestic law. 

MSF supported the national COVID-19 vaccination plan in Penang, focusing on refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrant workers, while calling on the authorities to introduce a ‘healthcare for all’ response to COVID-19 and update laws so that no refugees or asylum seekers are penalised or detained for seeking medical care. We also continued with our health promotion campaign via R-vision, the online Rohingya TV station.  

Our mental health team conducted individual counselling sessions, around a quarter of them by phone due to COVID-19 restrictions. The team identified an increasing number of victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including men, women and children who had been trafficked. We also distributed essential hygiene items, such as soap and sanitary pads, as well as milk powder and clothes, to vulnerable families and several immigration detention centres. 

In March, we launched our community-led advocacy initiative, the Penang Refugee Advocacy Group, consisting of five female and 13 male participants aged between 16 and 70 years, from the Rohingya, Myanmar Muslim and Mon communities. MSF facilitated training sessions with several external organisations, including an independent journalism academy, to help the group acquire skills for advocacy.  

In November, we started health screening in temporary detention centres in Sungai Bakap and Bidor, where the detainees were mainly Rohingya. Most of them expressed a sense of hopelessness about their futures, as they were locked up indefinitely without any prospect of release. 


In 2021
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