Under Malaysia law, refugees and asylum seekers are considered “illegal” immigrants and are subject to arrest, detention, prosecution, whipping and deportation. Their illegal status puts them in a position where they are unable to access health care services, education, employment, and attain an adequate standard of living. The clients that we are serving at MSRI come to Malaysia to seek asylum, they hope to find a better life, one that ensures their safety, meets the basic necessities of life and brings them peace of mind. However, unfortunately, they have opened new doors to a multitude of struggles and barriers that severely impact their physical and mental health. The work that we do at MSRI strives to “build bridges not borders”, and I would have to say that, that is exactly what we do. MSRI offers wrap-around services that work towards improving the lives of those who have been displaced.
I have spent a significant amount of time in the global south due to familial connections. And so, I expected to navigate with ease through the settlement process of my new home. But this is really only half true. What I find myself struggling with the most is navigating and understanding the complexities of systemic oppression and exactly how this intersects with the world of migration.
This is the fourth NGO that I have had the opportunity to work with; all of which have provided advocacy and support to marginalized populations. The similarity between each organization can be seen through the use of language. Often cruel pictures are painted through demeaning definitions of what the word “refugee” means. Individuals are often reduced to their stories of severe trauma and violence. Words are political and have the power to create and recreate power imbalances among individuals. And so, I believe it is very important to promote language around resilience that values autonomy and self-reliance. We must look past individual hardships and into the layers of injustice.
I am realizing how important it is to understand that those of us in the global North are complicit in migratory crises. But rather than reflecting on our inherent deficits, we must be cognizant and create willingness within ourselves to further our understanding of the oppressive systems that are currently in place. As I move forward into my role at MSRI I will concentrate on working across difference, this idea involves my own appreciation of my lack of competence, it reminds me of the partial nature of the knowledge that I hold. This framework allows me to be kind to myself and remember that I am not here as a professional. I am here decolonizing my own narrative by unlearning and relearning, I am here purely for my passion for social justice and advocacy towards refugee rights.