Rohingya focused in Malaysia as coronavirus stokes xenophobia

Eleyas, a Rohingya Muslim, fled to Malaysia six years in the past, searching for a secure haven from persecution in Myanmar.

Now he has been fired from his job by a boss who advised him it was due to his origins and he’s scared to go away his dwelling in worry of arrest or harassment.

“I need to discover a new job, but it surely’s not secure. We’re all simply staying at dwelling,” Eleyas, 38, advised Reuters, not giving his full identify for worry of retribution.

For many years, Muslim-majority Malaysia welcomed Rohingya and largely turned a blind eye to their technically unlawful employment in low-paying jobs.

However, as in another elements of the world, the novel coronavirus outbreak has turned sentiment in opposition to foreigners, who’ve been accused of spreading illness, burdening the state and taking jobs because the economic system plummets.

Whereas the Rohingya have been the obvious targets, different migrants are additionally anxious in a rustic that depends closely on overseas labour at factories, development websites and plantations.

“There may be harassment on the streets and on-line. I’ve by no means seen something like this in Malaysia earlier than,” stated one Malaysian activist, Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi, from the European Rohingya Council rights group.

She was threatened with rape on Fb after asking the federal government to permit boats carrying Rohingya refugees to land. The federal government turned again one boat with 200 refugees on board final month.

The Rohingya are a minority from largely Buddhist Myanmar, which manufacturers them unlawful immigrants though many say they will hint their ancestry there for generations. A couple of million now dwell in camps in Bangladesh.

Some 700,000 Rohingya fled from their properties in 2017 alone within the face of crackdown by Myanmar’s military.

Malaysia was lengthy seen as a haven of relative freedom and prosperity by Rohingya and it’s now dwelling to greater than 100,000 of them even though it manufacturers them unlawful immigrants quite than refugees.


However the coronavirus modified the ambiance in direction of Malaysia’s estimated hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and most of all in direction of the Rohingya.

Sentiment hardened as the federal government imposed economically paralysing motion restrictions to cease the unfold of a virus that has now contaminated greater than 7,000 folks within the nation of 31 million and killed 115 of them.

Because the temper turned in opposition to migrants, the federal government carried out raids this month wherein not less than 2,000 foreigners had been arrested, some led away in handcuffs by brokers in protecting gear.

The federal government has not given full particulars of the detainees’ nationalities, however not less than 800 of them had been from Myanmar and the overwhelming majority of individuals from Myanmar in Malaysia are Rohingya.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for touch upon the arrests and the backlash in direction of refugees and overseas employees.

The federal government has not stated what number of Rohingya have been discovered to have the virus.

Eleyas stated that because the temper soured, he and eight different Rohingya employees had been fired from their jobs at a grocery store. He didn’t determine the shop, for worry he could possibly be focused.

“They advised us they may now not make use of foreigners, solely Malaysians,” stated Eleyas. Reuters spoke to 5 different migrants who stated they’d just lately misplaced their jobs.

Two activist teams estimate that about 80% of the refugees who had jobs earlier than lockdowns started had been jobless. The unemployment price amongst Malaysians rose to a five-year excessive of three.9% in March.

“The group is in worry in the meanwhile. Their challenges have elevated as a result of lockdown and the xenophobic angle,” stated Hasnah Hussein, a Rohingya volunteer at migrant rights group Tenaganita.

The Malaysian Employers’ Federation stated the firing of migrant employees was to be anticipated as companies struggled and undocumented employees can be first to go.

“Employers have at all times taken a threat by hiring refugees,” the group’s chief govt, Shamsuddin Bardan, stated.

In the meantime, on-line assaults on Rohingya have surged – notably after unfounded allegations {that a} Rohingya activist had demanded Malaysian citizenship.

Tengku Emma stated that she had flagged a whole lot of examples to Fb together with the assaults on herself. She stated Fb suspended two pages with greater than 300,000 followers after she flagged them.

Fb stated it had eliminated content material in Malaysia for violating its insurance policies on hate speech, requires violence and sexual exploitation. It declined to say whether or not or not it had seen a rise.

Rights teams have accused the federal government of failing to reply to the assaults and a U.N. rights official stated the “hate marketing campaign” was undermining efforts to curb the coronavirus.

The federal government has reiterated that the migrants are unlawful immigrants and threatened authorized motion in opposition to Rohingya advocacy teams, saying no Rohingya organisation had ever been formally registered in Malaysia.

“The ‘hate speech’ directed on the Rohingya group raises critical considerations in regards to the Malaysia authorities’s dedication to guard human rights,” a bunch of 84 non-governmental organisations wrote in a letter to Muhyiddin.

The federal government didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the letter.

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