The North South Initiative (NSI) was established in Malaysia in 2011 to work with the marginalised communities from conflict areas. Over the years and due to the overwhelming need to address issues faced by non-citizen communities in Malaysia, NSI has extended its protection and advocacy mandate to include communities such as asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers, domestic workers, trafficked victims, stateless persons, farmers and indigenous youth.
NSI works closely with a number of civil society partners, in particular the Migration Working Group (MWG), a national coalition of civil society organisations and individuals who coordinate programming and conduct advocacy on behalf of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, trafficked victims, stateless persons and foreign spouses in Malaysia and the region. NSI also works with the Bar Council Malaysia, the statutory body regulating lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia. With respect to their work with the latter, NSI has a very close working relationship with the Bar Council’s Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee (MRIAC) and it’s Legal Advice Centres (particularly the LAC located in Kuala Lumpur). Two of their key members, Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna and Jeevanathan Angappan, work with the Bar Council as Assistant Director of Bar Council Malaysia and the Officer in charge of MRIAC and Officer of Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre, respectively. Sumitha is also a board member of NSI.
In addition to their work on the issue of legal aid, NSI also has close ties to a number of migrant and refugee community based organisations and solidarity networks.
Sumitha is actively involved with APRRN and a number of other regional networks on human rights and migration issues, including the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML). As part of Sumitha’s participation in AFML she attends regular meetings with the Malaysian government on migrant issues in ASEAN. More locally, Sumitha works closely with UNHCR to establish referral mechanisms to coordinate the delivery of services to refugees in Malaysia.
NSI and MWG work together to assist asylum seekers and refugees who face labour violation, criminal offence or rejected asylum seekers. NSI and MWG are some of the few organisations who render assistance to these communities on such issues. MWG also assist in providing legal representation through its Legal Aid systems to these communities on issues relating to labour violations, detention at police stations, criminal offences and family matters.