Malaysians want borders closed to refugees unlike in pre-pandemic

In general, world is now a less welcoming place for refugees

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by AFP

MALAYSIANS are clear about wanting to keep the borders closed to refugees, compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic, a study revealed.

According to Ipsos Malaysia, in general, world is now a less welcoming place for refugees.

Across the world, people favour less openness — this sentiment is stronger in Malaysia — with 82% of Malaysians said borders must remain closed completely and was only surpassed by Turkey at 67%, which host the most refugees in the world today.

Ipsos public affairs associate director Lars Erik Lie said Malaysians are in strong favour of keeping borders completely closed to refugees, representing a sharp shift compared to 2019 and before Covid-19.

“Accepting refugees is a highly contentious issue in most countries even during normal times, with the world being defined by closed borders and a near-halt in international travel, the world has become an even less welcoming place for refugees,” he said.

According to Lie, citizens across the globe preferred countries to be less open as the sentiment became increasingly clear in the survey.

“On a global country average only 14% said nations should be more open while 42% agreed it should be less open. 59% of Malaysians said it should be less open, again surpassed by Turkey at 67%. This was followed by South Korea at 42%, the UK at 39% and both US and Australia at 35%,” he said.

Meanwhile, the survey also recorded the new level of awareness citizens around the world felt in regards to financial strains the pandemic has caused.

“Citizens across the world do not consider funding on refugees a priority any longer, with an average of 37% stating so. Turkey came in at the highest with 60%, followed by Malaysia at 44%, the UK at 39% and US at 32%,” Lie noted.

As at February 2020, close to 179,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) in Malaysia, including 86% or 154,080 from Myanmar — comprising 101,010 Rohingyas, 22,810 Chins and 30,250 others.

Other refugees and asylum seekers include some 6,660 Pakistanis, Yemenis (3,680), Somalis (3,290), Syrians (3,290), Afghans (2,590), Sri Lankans (1,830), Iraqis (1,270) and Palestinians (790).