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World refugee day in one country: celebrating refugees and UNHCR in Malaysia

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While UNHCR and its local partners in Malaysia have commemorated World Refugee Day with a number of ‘awareness-raising’ activities and festive events each year, starting in 2005, the Malaysian authorities have pursued a range of increasingly punitive measures targeting ‘illegal migrants’ during this period. In the context of a country which is, at the same time, a non-signatory to the 1951 Convention and a destination for significant refugee populations in the region, the celebration and commemoration of the figure of the refugee raise a number of questions. First of all, how does the figure of the refugee appear, as such, in Malaysia when seen through the prism of the various activities, events and campaigns held in conjunction with World Refugee Day since 2005? Second, how is it possible for this figure—an ‘illegal migrant’ under the Immigration Act—to emerge, however sporadically and incompletely, in Malaysian public discourse as another Other, one deserving of ‘our encouragement, support, and respect’, to quote UNHCR's official website? Third, how does the case of Malaysia help illuminate our understanding of the slippage produced in the encounters between national body politic and international humanitarian spirit?

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/25257/

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