Background and Purpose: NGOs have become the most vital actors in meeting refugees’ needs in Malaysia; alas, most of these concerns cover basic needs such as food, health care, and education. In this regard, this study investigates other forms of NGOs assistance that ought to be provided to Malaysia's refugee communities to enhance living standards.


Methodology: This study employs a qualitative approach consisting of semi-structured interviews with Somalian, Rohingya, Pakistani and Syrian refugees. Data were collected during observation trips in Penang, Kedah, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Johor to comprehensively understand these diasporic communities, notably regarding the challenges refugees face in Malaysia.


Findings: The data indicated that refugee communities are significantly in need of proper and accessible channels through which they might share their grievances, temporary shelters, mental health care, and language classes. The team concluded that these forms of assistance ought to be made available to all refugee communities in Malaysia. Without such forms of assistance from NGOs, refugees' lived realities are made invariably more difficult; this is in addition to their vulnerability to forces that threaten their security.


Contributions: This paper provides insights into the needs of refugees in Malaysia based on interviews and observations conducted with them. Based on the findings, this research provides recommendations to NGOs to ameliorate life necessities for refugee communities.


Keywords: Humanitarian assistance, Malaysia, NGOs, refugees, UNHCR.


Cite as: Nazri, A. S., Talib@Khalid, K. A., Sulaiman, N., & Gidah, M. E. (2022). Untangling the needs of refugees in Malaysia: The way forward.  Journal of Nusantara Studies, 7(1), 196-220. http://dx.doi.org/10.24200/jonus.vol7iss1pp196-220

Author Biographies

Atika Shafinaz Nazri, Institute of Ethnic Studies, Level 4, Kolej Keris Mas, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia.

Atika Shafinaz Nazri received her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Her area of studies focuses on civil society, humanitarian assistance and refugee. She is an active member and volunteer in providing aid to refugees in Malaysia with various NGOs such as Malaysia Humanitarian Aid and Relief (MAHAR) and Malaysia For Syria.

Kartini Aboo Talib@Khalid, Institute of Ethnic Studies, Level 4, Kolej Keris Mas, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia.

Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid is a Professor of public policy and ethnic studies. She is a principal research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, University Kebangsaan Malaysia. Her field of research focuses on public policy pertaining to consumerism, politics-gender participation and social justice.

Nidzam Sulaiman, Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM, Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

Retired officially as senior research fellow in 2019 but currently renders his service as Guest fellow at Institute of Ethnic Studies, UKM and at the same time acting as teaching fellow at Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia. His field of interests are political development and political anthropology particularly issues of democratization and nation building in Malaysia.

Mary Ellen Gidah, Institute of Ethnic Studies, Level 4, Kolej Keris Mas, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia.

M.E. Gidah is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Her research interests include literature, women’s studies and linguistics.


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How to Cite
Nazri, A. S., Talib@Khalid, K. A., Sulaiman, N., & Gidah, M. E. (2022). UNTANGLING THE NEEDS OF REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA: THE WAY FORWARD. Journal of Nusantara Studies (JONUS), 7(1), 196-220. https://doi.org/10.24200/jonus.vol7iss1pp196-220