PETALING JAYA: Sympathy helps but what NGOs involved in helping refugees need more is solid assistance.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) spokesperson Yante Ismail claimed that refugees were not helpless but were already finding solutions to their problems.
“It is important to know that refugees are not just waiting for help or donations.
“They are already finding solutions to their own problems, finding ways to cope while in exile and to stay strong as a community,” Yante told FMT.
However, Yante quickly added that refugees were in dire need of opportunities and long-term solutions to support themselves while they are here in Malaysia.
Among long-term solutions which the agency is trying to do are assisting refugees in voluntary return when conditions permit, temporary local integration, and resettlement to a third country.
She also said there were many NGOs involved in supporting these refugees.
She said NGOs in Malaysia were supportive in terms of education, healthcare, training and capacity-building, livelihood, child protection, sexual and gender-based violence, and community empowerment.
Among the NGOs supporting refugees in terms of education are the IDEAS Academy, ElShaddai and Fugee School.
Some of the NGOs working on capacity-building are the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (Nawem) and Tamil Forum Malaysia.
NGOs working on healthcare and mental health include Health Equity Initiatives and an organisation known as A Call to Serve (ACTS).
Meanwhile, NGOs working on providing shelter for vulnerable women and children include the Women’s Aid Organisation and Positive Living Community.
Unfortunately, many of these NGOs are having difficulty funding their projects to support refugees, she added.
“NGOs face tremendous challenges in funding and capacity to run their projects. This is an area where they need the most support from private sector companies and private individuals,” said Yante.
She also claimed that the public and potential donors were not being sufficiently exposed to the work of NGOs involved in supporting refugees.
“These NGOs are either unknown or unfamiliar to the public,” said Yante.
“There are a lot of NGOs providing support for refugees but people don’t know how or who to reach out to in order to help them.”
In an effort to narrow this gap between donors and NGOs, UNCHR is organising an event called the “Marketplace” – a networking platform between NGOs and private sector companies and individuals looking to support refugee projects.
The event commemorates World Refugee Day and connects the private sector directly with the NGOs running assistance programmes for refugees in the areas of health, education, livelihood and protection.
World Refugee Day on June 20 recognises the courage of refugees in rebuilding their lives despite the horrors they have faced. It is also to create awareness and garner public support for creating a humanitarian space for refugees.
The NGOs mentioned earlier will be present at the event to be held on Saturday, July 8, 2017, at Makespace, Quill City Mall, Kuala Lumpur, from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Admission is free and open to all.
According to UNCHR records, as at the end of May this year, 150,200 refugees and asylum-seekers were registered in Malaysia.
Some 133,700 are from Myanmar, comprising 58,600 Rohingyas, 39,000 Chins, 10,200 Myanmar Muslims, 4,300 Rakhines; Arakanese and other ethnicities.
There are 16,500 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including 3,500 Pakistanis, 2,300 Sri Lankans, 2,100 Yemenis, 2,000 Somalis, 2,000 Syrians, 1,500 Iraqis, 1,100 Afghans and 700 Palestinians.
About 67% of these refugees and asylum-seekers are men. Around 36,800 are aged below 18.