Shamir Das: Championing The Refugee Community

Refugees living in Malaysia are struggling to make ends meet as they aren’t ideal employees due to their undocumented status yet still need to make ends meet. They live in a classic Catch-22 situation on top of the constant fear / panic as they are largely considered to be undocumented according to the laws of Malaysia as shared by Shamir. Imagine living day to day not knowing if you will be spending the night at home in the arms of your family or in a jail cell. In addition to the trauma of fleeing your home county and the harrowing emotions that follow, refugees live with uncertainty every other day of their lives. Naturally this will have an impact on their mental health among issues and this is where Shamir’s work comes into heavy play.


Shamir and his team at HEI constantly strive to do their best to provide psycho-social support to the refugee community which ensured that received assistance from appropriate channels. This included being the focal point with external stakeholders such as law enforcement personnel, landlords and governmental healthcare facilities As Shamir shared, the unfulfillment of basic needs will lead to the worsening of mental health; and no amount of medication can cure that!


Adding this on to the trauma and stress of being a refugee in Malaysia, and we have an almost guaranteed recipe for physical and mental health issues. Therefore, one of the first steps to viewing mental health issues among the refugee population would be to evaluate their basic needs, which may be something so attainable and easy for us. How much good can come about counseling someone on anxiety or depression when they do not even have a safe place to rest at night or worries about meals for the day constantly, he asks.


While there are various organisations in Malaysia laboring under the banner of human rights, coming by an organisation that focuses on mental health for refugees is difficult to come by. Currently in Klang Valley, HEI is the only organisation to provide integrated mental health services for the refugee community. Through this, Shamir has a broad exposure to members of the refugee communities who had been diagnosed with a variety of mental health issues.

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