Covid-19 no excuse for failing to help Rohingya in need, says Bar

Rohingya refugees already in Malaysia being given food aid.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has repeated its call that Rohingya refugees are a vulnerable group and need protection in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its president, Salim Bashir, said these refugees were fleeing their countries of origin due to persecution and discrimination.

“We therefore call upon all Malaysians to come together to assist these communities, who are among the most defenceless, in the fight against Covid-19,” he said in a statement.

Salim also called on the government to honour, respect and uphold the rules and customs of international and local laws.

“The pandemic should not be used as an excuse to derogate from these obligations,” he added.

The Bar’s statement comes following the government’s action in pushing back Rohingya refugees arriving by boat on April 16.

It was reported that the authorities refused to allow disembarkation of a boat with several hundred Rohingya aboard in the waters off Langkawi, due to Covid-19 fears.

Salim said it was troubling that the government’s action violated the customary international law principle of non-refoulement, departing from its legal and moral obligation not to deport individuals to situations where their very lives may be in serious jeopardy.

He said the Bar recognised that this was a trying time for Malaysia and her citizens as its resources were already stretched thin.

“We exist as part of a global community and have to support each other. We are called on to not turn our backs on the vulnerable when they need us the most,” he added.

He urged the government to deploy search-and-rescue missions, and to provide humanitarian assistance and medical treatment where required to refugees.

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