No room for any more Rohingya refugees, says Tok Mat

Two Malaysian navy ships intercepted a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya on April 16, preventing it from entering Malaysian waters. (RMAF pic)

PETALING JAYA: Umno has defended Putrajaya’s decision to push back to sea overloaded boats carrying Rohingya refugees heading for Malaysia and called for joint action by Asean and the rest of the world.

The party’s deputy president, Mohamad Hasan, said Malaysia has “exceeded its capacity” to host refugees.

Asean must no longer sleep on the issue and must start working with Myanmar on providing the Rohingya with the right to return and continue to live peacefully in Rakhine state, said Mohamad, who is familiarly known as Tok Mat.

The Rohingya, who are considered stateless, have accused the Myanmar government and its military of committing atrocities against the community.

Malaysia came under criticism this week after the navy turned away a boat with about 200 Rohingya refugees on April 16, preventing it from entering Malaysian waters.

Mohamad Hasan

Mohamad said the navy’s action was in line with closure of Malaysia’s borders to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign nationals and vessels have been banned from entering the country during the crisis.

Mohamad said: “We have far exceeded our capacity to host refugees. Some parts of our cities have become too concentrated with refugees, and the resources to take care of their welfare have been depleted.”

Malaysia could not welcome any more refugees as the government “could not treat them humanely without siphoning resources from other areas” while dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The welfare of Malaysians remained the government’s utmost priority, he said.

He called for action by Asean and the global community to work on a long-term solution. Temporary shelter in Malaysia for the Rohingya was unsustainable.

Mohamad said refugees already in Malaysia should be relocated to a receiving country. “A plan to effect this must now be developed and rigorously pursued by all the stakeholders,” he said.

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar in 2017, with thousands paying smugglers to help them reach other countries, including Malaysia.

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