Impact of Prolonged Immigration Detention on Rohingya Families & Communities in Malaysia

June 5, 2023

In 2017, a violent security crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State triggered the largest exodus of Rohingya in recent history. At the time, the Malaysian government took a vocal stance against the persecution of the Rohingya, positioning themselves as supportive and sympathetic to their plight. However, as growing numbers of Rohingya have sought irregular means of travelling to Malaysia to reunite with family and community members, levels of public and political tolerance in the country have waned. The Malaysian government has increasingly adopted a securitised and frequently ad-hoc approach in responding to Rohingya and other refugee communities. This has included more boat pushbacks, more frequent immigration enforcement raids, and the immediate, arbitrary, and indefinite immigration detention of many Rohingya in Malaysia.

Previous research has documented the ways in which Malaysia’s laws and policies are applied towards Rohingya and other refugees. However, less attention has been paid to the ways in which Rohingyas experience these policies, and the means by which they have responded to corresponding threats to their safety and security. This research report focuses on how Rohingya families and communities have been impacted in the immediate and longer-term by Malaysia’s harsh and indefinite immigration detention policies. It also provides strategic and relevant recommendations for increasing access to protection and services for Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, not least the need for Alternatives To Detention (ATD) and a refugee-, survivor-centred approach in policies and responses at both national and regional levels, in line with international protection and human rights standards. 

This research was undertaken by International Detention Coalition (IDC) for the “Protecting Rohingya Refugees in Asia” (PRRiA) project, an initiative of the Danish Refugee Council, the Asia Displacement Solutions Platform, the Mixed Migration Centre, Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia, HOST International, and the Geutanyoë Foundation.


Additional Publications
Executive Summary - English
Executive Summary - Malay