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Allocate funds for refugees’ basic needs, SUHAKAM urges

Graphic: Members of the Commission's monitoring team

In addition to the threat posed by a lack of housing and jobs, refugee communities live in fear of being arrested if they get tested for COVID-19.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has called on the Malaysian Government to allocate funds to provide for the basic needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

It said the government should also set up temporary shelters for members of the community who could be evicted by their landlords.

In a statement, SUHAKAM said refugees and asylum seekers were in great need of food and financial aid following the movement control order (MCO), implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19.

SUHAKAM added that the community, threatened by a lack of shelter and jobs, was also living in fear of being arrested due to their status as refugees.

The lack of financial aid for the community meant that many were unable to pay their bills and rent, which placed them at risk of eviction.

"Given the lack of a legal right to work in Malaysia, most refugees tend to find a living by working within the informal sector. This provides limited employment protection, if any," SUHAKAM said in the statement.

"Notwithstanding the necessity of implementing the MCO, it has left those working in the informal sector with no source of income for as long as it is in place."

SUHAKAM urged that humanitarian aid services be classified as an essential service during the MCO to ensure better coordination and distribution of aid to those in need.

"Conditions imposed under the MCO, such as working with the Welfare Department for aid distribution, have drastically limited the NGOs' access and ability to provide aid effectively," SUHAKAM said.

"In addition, due to the roadblocks enforced, some aid meant for distribution has failed to reach those in dire need of food, daily sundry goods and funds."

SUHAKAM also said there were reports of refugees and asylum seekers getting arrested despite the Government's assurance that this would not happen during the pandemic.

"There is also the fear that coming forward during this period may lead to the possibility of being arrested once the crisis is over."

SUHAKAM said law enforcement authorities must ensure that refugees coming forward to be tested for the virus are not arrested, regardless of their circumstances or status.

Date: 15 April 2020


Image credits

  1. Members of the Commission's monitoring team - SUHAKAM