Dear friends of WAO
The Malaysian government does not recognize refugees officially and yet our country has over 86,000 refugees as of January 2012 according to the UNHCR in Malaysia. Refugees leave their countries because they do not have any other choice except to flee from various reasons such as conflicts and human right issues.
They seek asylum status from the UNHCR situated in Kuala Lumpur and whilst waiting for a durable solution, set up their own communities in and around urban areas, eking a living working in shops, restaurants, and building sites illegally. In their communities, refugee women are continuously subject to violence and exploitation either by their own people or Malaysians. These women are survivors of trafficking, rape, domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Unfortunately, as a refugee they have limited access to professional support such as healthcare and legal protection. In other words, women refugees are often at risk.
WAO works closely with the UNHCR by giving support to refugee women who requires counseling and shelter. As of July 2012, there are 17 women in WAO’s shelter and 4 of them are refugee women from Sri Lanka, Palestine and Myanmar. WAO opens its doors to women of all races, ethnicities and nationalities.
One of WAO’s clients, Maya* is a refugee and domestic violence survivor who is living in Malaysia with her husband and child, also refugees. Maya was referred to WAO by the UNHCR for temporary shelter since early this year. She was physically and sexually abused by her husband. She needs to recuperate and requires protection. Maya and her husband have worked at various parts of the country for awhile and when the subject of resettlement was brought up, his aggression towards her escalated. He even threatened her if she proceeds with the resettlement programme.
Pressure mounts when you are always on the move and living in perilous and isolated conditions, when you run out of money, have hungry mouths to feed and cannot work legally, when language becomes a barrier and you want to make yourself understood, when every day is a struggle to live and to stay alive. That’s the life of refugees living in this country even with a refugee card.
WAO will continue to support the work of UNCHR. In 2011, WAO provided face to face counseling to 35 refugee women and asylum seekers at the UNHCR.
To find out more about WAO’s work, log on to www.wao.org.my or connect with us at facebook.com/womens.aid.org
*Name has been changed to protect identity