In complex migration contexts, protection actors have had to invest tremendous effort into signifying “refugees” as a legitimate type of non-citizen deserving of international protection. This article examines how the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reinforces the distinction between “refugees” and “migrants” through resource-intensive practices of identification, intervention, and advocacy in Malaysia, which have resulted in the partial, impermanent protection of some refugees. In such situations, UNHCR takes on properties of a “surrogate state” but does so without sovereignty, negotiating the protection of refugees in urban and rural areas with ambiguous authority. In recent years, Rohingyas have become the archetypal refugee in Southeast Asia. Troublingly, UNHCR has argued that other refugees from Myanmar in protracted situations are no longer in need of international protection. Contemporary constructions of “refugees” fail to address the complexities of migration but have become a necessary protection measure. Alternative ways are needed to address the precarity of diverse mobile subjects in Southeast Asia.
|Number of pages||24|
|Journal||Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Nov 2019|