Frequently Asked Question

1Who is a refugee? What is the difference between a refugee, an asylum seeker, and a migrant?
According to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention), a “refugee” is defined as a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race / religion / nationality / membership of a particular social group / political opinion. Such person is also one whose application to the UNHCR has been successful.

An "asylum seeker" refers to a person who has applied for asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees on the ground that if he is returned to his country of origin he has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular social group. He remains an asylum seeker for so long as his application or an appeal against refusal of his application is pending.

A migrant, on the other hand, differs from a refugee and asylum seeker in terms of experiences and reasons for leaving his / her country of origin. Migrants choose to leave their home country, and can choose where to go and when they might return to their home country. Asylum seekers and refugees, on the other hand, flee their country for their own safety and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.
2Where do the refugees and asylum seekers come from?
There are over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR Malaysia, with a vast majority of them originating from Myanmar. However, the refugees and asylum seekers registered with MSRI are made of communities comprising of over 17 nationalities with Middle Eastern, Central Asian or African background. Their countries of origin include, but are not limited to Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Pakistan.
3Who can access services at MSRI?
Only those who hold either a valid appointment card, a refugee card or an asylum seeker card authorised by the UNHCR can be registered with MSRI and access services from the organisation.
4I am a refugee / asylum seeker. How do I register myself / my family at MSRI and what benefits can we get upon registration?
MSRI only registers individuals / families holding refugee cards, asylum seeker cards or appointment cards – any of which must be validly obtained from UNHCR. Due to the increasing demand, new procedures for SSC registration have been established based on Countries of Origin Information (COI), following the new UNHCR registration procedures (SVP-Status Verification Process):

Automatic Registration: Afghanis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Syrians (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Iraqis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Yemenis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Palestinians (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Sudanese (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card)

Automatic Registration: Afghanis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Syrians (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Iraqis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Yemenis (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Palestinians (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card) Sudanese (with or without UNHCR card/appointment card)

Conditional Registration:

Iranians (only with UNHCR refugee card) Pakistanis (only with UNHCR refugee card)

Case-by-case*: Somalis Egyptians Other countries

*Case-by-case decisions mean that MSRI staff is responsible for determining the eligibility of PoC to be registered. On regular basis, the decision is made during Friday Open Days at SSC1.

**Also, if there are doubts about cases that fall under the Conditional Registration, the decision of determine PoC’s registration may be left to MSRI staff during Friday Open Day.

To register, the person of concern (PoC) may visit our community centre (which is open from Monday to Thursday at 10am to 4pm) and fill in our registration form.

A person / family registered with MSRI can benefit from our health services, education, vocational training, livelihood support and other services available.

5What services does MSRI provide to its target population?
MSRI provides education, primary healthcare, livelihood and emergency family support to its target population. The organisation has three main programmes, namely:
    An education programme for children (from 4 to 18 years of age) and adults A family health programme offering primary healthcare, mental health and outreach services • A family services programme offering vocational training, livelihood and family support services ranging from emergency support to case management.

To learn more about our holistic range of programmes available, click HERE.
6I am registered with MSRI. Does this mean I can get discounts at hospitals and clinics?
If you are a UNHCR cardholder with refugee status, you are entitled to 50% discount on medical bills at government health facilities. However, asylum seekers will be charged with full foreigner’s rate.

MSRI provides cash assistance to families and individuals (both refugees and asylum seekers) who have undergone treatment at health facilities within Malaysia, as a way of assisting them from incurring more financial losses. The amount of support given depends on funding availability, and living situation of families / individuals concerned. However, do bear in mind that assistance is provided ONLY to families / individuals who are already registered at MSRI.
7I am a UNHCR cardholder. Whom should I contact, in case of issues with the authorities e.g arrest and detention?
The Malaysian Government is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. As a result, refugees and asylum seekers do not have a legal status while in Malaysia.

Lacking a legal status puts you in greater vulnerability. Therefore, if you or any of your family members are stopped / arrested by the police:

  • Remember to stay calm. Cooperate with the police and find out the reason for your arrest.
  • Show your UNHCR document / reference number and tell the police to call UNHCR Hotline number (012-6305060) to verify – please remember the hotline number, as well as YOUR own phone number.
  • Inform UNHCR, friends or family as soon as possible on the arrest. You need to give details of UNHCR number, place of arrest, which police station and if possible, the contact details of Investigating Officer involved.
  • Try to get hold of an interpreter should you have any problem understanding what has been communicated to you.
8Can MSRI help speed up the resettlement process for refugees?
No. Unfortunately, MSRI is not authorised to be in charge of matters pertaining to documentations or even resettlement process for refugees. Only UNHCR has the jurisdiction to do so.
9What happens when a person’s application for refugee status is rejected by the UNHCR?
MSRI is unable to provide services to those who have received a final rejection from UNHCR. Support can only be extended for 6 months after the date of final rejection (including final rejection after appeal). No services are provided if the status of the person is not known.
10How does MSRI sustain itself?
Thanks to generous organisations, corporations and individuals, MSRI is able to continue operate its services through the contributions you have provided. As a non-governmental organisation, we are fully non-profit and rely on external funding.
11I would like to donate to MSRI. What can I donate and who should I contact?
MSRI greatly appreciates contributions made by kind donors, be it monetary or in-kind. However, due to its limited storage, MSRI cannot simply take any in-kind donations in large volumes e.g unwanted clothes.
12How do I make an online donation?
By simply clicking HERE.
13Is it safe for me to donate online?
Yes. Our system ensures that your bank details are protected.
14Can I become a monthly donor?
Yes. You have an option to choose where you would like to donate based on our list of programmes available.
15Do I get a tax deductible receipt once I’ve made a donation?
Yes, but subject to a minimum amount of donation. Should you require a receipt, kindly drop an email to admin@msri.org.my
16As a funding body / individual donor, where does my donation go to?
Your donation goes towards sustaining our operations which ensure better livelihood of our target communities.
17I am a university student who’s interested in learning more about refugee issues. Are there such opportunities for me at MSRI?
We have plenty of volunteering and internship opportunities for university students. For more information, please click HERE.
18I would like to volunteer to help children in need. Can I visit the school? Can I also take photos?
MSRI has a strict Child Protection Policy whereby a child’s best interest remains a priority. We do not simply allow non-staff members of MSRI to enter the school, unless prior approval is granted. Due to privacy concern, taking photos of refugees and asylum seekers is prohibited, unless consent is attained.