Refugees shouldn’t have to rely on donations, says Amnesty

Rohingya at the Selayang wholesale market affected by the enhanced movement control order. Many of them look to the government and NGOs for assistance to feed their families.

PETALING JAYA: Amnesty International has urged Putrajaya to ensure the needs of refugees and migrants under lockdown are met, telling the government that they should not have to rely on donations to survive.

Amnesty International Malaysia interim executive director Preethi Bhardwaj said basic needs like adequate shelter, food, water, sanitation and access to healthcare must be ensured for all.

She said the authorities cannot discriminate against citizens and non-citizens.

“The government has a duty to ensure humane conditions for all those subjected to quarantine.

“Certain marginalised groups in quarantine — including refugees and migrants — face additional challenges in accessing supplies.

“In implementing responses to Covid-19, governments should be conscious of this particular impact of measures on specific groups and ensure that their needs are fully accounted for,” she said in a statement.

Putrajaya had declared areas surrounding the Selayang wholesale market, where there is a large concentration of the Rohingya community, under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO).

There had been fears that authorities would not give food aid under EMCO to Rohingya as they are not citizens.

The Rohingya are also not recognised as citizens by the Myanmar government. As such, they could not expect help from the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier today, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa gave an assurance that about 10,000 non-Malaysians living near the wholesale market under lockdown will get basic food supplies for the next two weeks.

“The FT crisis management centre has set up a bank account under DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) to obtain public donations and we will use the money to buy food supplies for them. We are not touching any taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Bhardwaj also urged Putrajaya not to turn away Rohingya refugee boats, urging the authorities to allow them to enter Malaysian waters and disembark.

With the fasting month beginning tomorrow, she urged the authorities and Malaysians to reach out and help refugees, stressing that they were ultimately victims of atrocities fleeing oppressive circumstances.

“The government must not turn a blind eye towards the plight faced by the Rohingya, both within and outside the nation.

“Instead of vilifying them, we must give the Rohingya the compassion and humanity they deserve.”

It was reported previously that a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) surveillance aircraft had spotted a boatload of Rohingya 70 nautical miles west of Pulau Langkawi and contacted the Royal Malaysian Navy.

RMAF said in a media statement it feared the group might bring Covid-19 into the country.

The crew of the KD Lekiu navy vessel distributed food to the group and escorted their boat out of Malaysian waters.

Human rights groups criticised the authorities’ decision as irrational and inhumane, warning that the refugees could then fall victim to human traffickers.

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