Malaysia houses a large number of refugees and asylumseekers, as it is both a transit and final destination for thoseseeking relief from persecution and violence. In April 2019, there were a total of 170,460 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR.2 This excludes those who are unregistered (with estimates indicating another 100,000 at least), the stateless, those in “refugee-like-situations” and “others of concern”. Although the vast majority of refugees enter illegally and work informally in Malaysia, their status is indeterminate and they are susceptible to discretionary harassment, detention and deportation. This policy brief will demonstrate that formalising a work programme for refugees not only grants them greater security, but it is also positive for the security of the host state.

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