Finnish Embassy supports a research on refugees in Malaysia

The Embassy of Finland has funded the printing of second edition of “The Forced Labor, Human Trafficking and Mental Health: The Experiences of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Malaysia”.

Embassy and Health Equity Iniatives executive director Ng Tze Yengin signed the agreement of the reserch in November last year. The second edition of the research was published on November 22, 2012.

“This will be an invaluable tool to continously advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia”, Ng Tze Yengin writes.


Finnish Ambassador Matti Pullinen studies the just-published research funded by the Embassy. (Photo: Timo Karmakallio)

Research shows many forms of malpractice
Research indicates that Malaysia is host to one of the largest refugee and asylum seeker populations in Asia. The United Nation Refugee Agency (UNCHR) in Malaysia registered more then 91 000 refugees. Most (92%) are from Myanmar.

One of the biggest problems is that in Malaysian law they are concidered as “illegal immigrants”. This is the reason many of them are forced to find illegal work.

Because of the situation one third of 1074 interviewd refugees or asylum seekers had experienced forced labor. Interviewed persons were between 13-70 years old. They had lived in Malaysia between one month and 14 years. Around 70% of them had symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The research shows that one reason for mental health problems was malpractices of employers and emplyment agents. Many end up working as forced labor because work and salary were not what was promised. Wages were not paid or were paid but cut down because for instance food that workers had was over prized or they had not worked well enough. Other times interviewed told that they had been locked in rooms after the work or abused physically, or insulted verbally. Mostly used trick to get them work as forced labor was threat of Malaysian officials as refugees and asylum seekers did not have permits to stay in Malaysia. Most of them found relief and support only from their family and friends.

Research is possible to loan for free from the library of Finnish Embassy in Malaysia.

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