In several countries across Southeast Asia, the absence of a proper legal framework for refugees means that they are often considered as 'illegal aliens', which puts them in a situation of extreme vulnerability. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are not signatory to the Refugee Convention and do not have specific laws for the protection of refugees. While the region’s economy is thriving and its population is booming, refugees and asylum seekers in these countries are forced into a life of invisibility.
Maheswary, her mother and her three children are refugees from Sri Lanka. "It's difficult to find full-time work when you're forbidden to work," Maheswary explains. Refugees in Malaysia have no legal status or right to work and often have to depend on informal work and donations.
With funding from the EU, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides cash assistance to help Mashewary make ends meet, but with no right to work and her kids excluded from formal education, Mashewary asks how she can provide a better life for her family.
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