Fear of Covid-19 in Malaysia

Human rights organization demands release of 269 Rohingya boat people (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demands Malaysia to release 269 Rohingya boat people. The refugees were arrested yesterday, after their boat landed near the holiday island of Langkawi in the northwest of the country in the early morning. "Instead of showing solidarity, the Muslim refugees are met with hatred and rejection in a Muslim country. The pandemic is another serious threat to these already traumatized people," explained Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Tuesday. Around 100,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar (Burma) have sought refuge in Malaysia since the beginning of the genocidal attacks on the minority in their home country in 2012. 

"Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been increasing calls in Malaysia not to accept any more refugees – for fear that the virus might spread even faster," Delius stated. "There have been petitions demanding the government to expel all refugees, and the social media channels are full of slander and hate speech. In consequence, the authorities carried out more raids against illegal migrants, and at least 2,000 refugees were arrested. In mid-May 2020, the STP had – in cooperation with 83 other non-governmental organizations from Germany and abroad – already published a statement calling for an end to the wave of hatred against the Rohingya in Malaysia. In the meantime, their situation has deteriorated dramatically – socially and economically: around 80 percent of the Rohingya who managed to find a job are out of work again due to the virus.

In early April 2020, in response to the public pressure, Malaysia's government had seized a boat with 202 Rohingya refugees. All of them were arrested. In total, 665 boatpeople were arrested by the Malaysian authorities since the beginning of the year, including women and children. At least 22 refugee boats were sent back to sea. Malaysia has not signed the Geneva Refugee Convention. Accordingly, the country does not feel obliged to offer protection to people who had to flee from the most serious human rights violations.