Healthy refugees, migrant workers means healthy Malaysians, say NGOs

Four NGOs say maintaining good health among refugees and migrant workers will also protect the health of Malaysians.

PETALING JAYA: Four NGOs representing different interest groups today urged the government to pay more attention to the health of refugees and migrant workers, saying it has a direct effect on the health of Malaysians.

The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC), Beyond Borders Malaysia, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (Mapim) and Tenaganita said refugees and migrant workers are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other diseases as they live in high-density areas and suffer from a lack of access to information and healthcare.

While this makes it a challenge to maintain good health in these communities, the NGOs noted that doing so would also protect the health of Malaysians.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the health of non-citizens is appropriately looked after,” they said in a joint statement.

“Covid-19 affects everyone no matter their place of birth or citizenship, (and) for the disease to fully be eradicated in the country, we must care for everyone’s health.”

The NGOs said health education and disease prevention information must be in languages and media that refugee and migrant worker communities can access easily and understand.

In addition, the communities must feel secure enough to seek medical assistance should they require it.

They called for sectors that are reliant on migrant workers to establish clear guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP) on maintaining their health while the country restarts businesses and industries as part of lifted restrictions during the movement control order (MCO).

They said there must be enforcement of the guidelines, with penalties for non-compliance.

They also urged the government to introduce a moratorium on eviction of all residents in Malaysia.

Not only would it support Malaysians during this crisis, it would also help refugee and migrant communities who are unable to pay rent.

“Housing is a human right that should be protected to allow all people to abide by the MCO and limit the spread of the virus,” the NGOs said.

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