The Long-Term Aspirations of Rohingya Refugees’ Families in Malaysia

Sazlin Suhalmie Mohd Shariff, J.S. Keshminder
Faculty of Business and Management Universiti Teknologi MARA

Peck-Leong Tan, Arlinah Abdul Rashid
Arshad Ayub Graduate Business School, Universiti Teknologi MARA

Mohd Safwan Ghazali
Faculty of Entrepreneurship and Business, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan


The Rohingya refugees have often viewed Malaysia as open, although Malaysia is a non-signatory of the 1951 Refugees Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Hence, the number of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia had increased to more than 180000 in 2021. A fundamental problem with managing refugees in Malaysia is that there is no real policy in place and thus no real idea of how many, who, and where they are. Every year, less than one percent of the refugees have been successfully sent to a third country worldwide. The current situation has prevented the refugee resettlement matter in Malaysia from being resolved quickly; instead, it takes years and even decades for a small outcome, often without any apparent end. One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the resettlement releases to third countries worldwide decreased sharply in 2020 due to international travelling had to be stopped. Every year, less than 5 percent of the world’s refugees will receive a place in a third country (UNHCR Malaysia, 2021). Therefore, it is essential to understand Rohingya refugees’ long-term aspirations to prepare them for the future. The right policy is needed to prepare the refugees to resettle in a third country or eventually return to Myanmar. Therefore, this paper explores the Rohingya refugees’ future aspirations and resettlement plans based on qualitative data through semistructured interviews. This research carried out in-depth qualitative interviews with 10 Rohingya refugees currently living in Malaysia and six Rohingya refugees who have already resettled in a third country and used to stay in Malaysia as their transit country. This research discovered nine livelihood aspirations, three community aspirations, and two-family aspirations shared by the respondents. This study also found that almost all respondents aspire to resettle in a third country in the long run, but the delay in getting resettlement leaves them no choice, but to remain in Malaysia. Hence, this paper concludes that policymakers need to construct settlement programmes to help Rohingya refugees and asylums while they are still in Malaysia and prepare them to settle in the third country eventually.

Keywords: Rohingya refugees, Aspirations, Resettlement, Durable solutions