My name is Sagal* and I advocate for the work rights of refugees as part of Asylum Access Malaysia’s community outreach programs.
What you need to know about Malaysia is that life here for forcibly displaced communities can be exceptionally challenging. Malaysia hasn’t signed onto the 1951 Refugee Convention and so people who were forced to flee here from another country have no legal status. In reality, that can leave many people denied access to education, healthcare and fair employment.
Despite that, life goes on and the communities that we work with have used their resilience and ingenuity to find employment and support themselves. Some employers, however, take advantage of refugees to exploit them or deny them wages, which is where someone like me comes in to help arbitrate their case. The rest of our team also works hard on outreach, workshops, and disseminating key information—I invite you to learn more by watching the video below from one of my amazing colleagues.
The fact that our community outreach team includes people like me and my colleague in the video above, who are from the very communities that we work with, gives us an unrivaled level of knowledge, trust and proximity.
One particularly memorable case for me was when one community member approached me about their best friend, who was deaf and could not read or write. They urgently needed to renew their documentation from the UN Refugee Agency in order to keep their job and prevent their deportation, but accessibility issues were getting in the way. With much time and creativity, the three of us worked out a system of communication so that I could take down his statement and advocate for his case. Not only were his papers renewed, but we are now working with the UN Refugee Agency to remove the barriers he experienced to accessing the documentation he needed to carry on with his life.
This is what I believe makes the work of Asylum Access different. Few other organizations would have team members with the time, knowledge and resources to not only support a community member overcome an institutional barrier like that, but to also remove that barrier for the next person. It is actions like these that are helping refugee communities reclaim our agency and independence.
I invite you to be a part of our team and support this important work by donating to our annual appeal. Your gift can help ensure that refugee communities access their rights in a challenging legal environment like Malaysia.
All the best from Kuala Lumpur,
Work Rights Program Officer
Asylum Access Malaysia
*A different name has been used for safety reasons