KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on the refugee communities and asylum seekers in Malaysia who are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms to seek medical treatment immediately, said its Associate External Relations Officer Yante Ismail.
She said this has to be done following reports that the refugee communities and asylum-seekers were said to be part of a group of foreigners who attended the religious gathering at Sri Petaling mosque from February 27 to March 1.
“Refugee communities and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR will be tested for free in Malaysian public hospitals if they are suspected of Covid-19,” she told Bernama.
Yante said UNHCR welcomes the important announcement by the government that the undocumented, and those with expired documents (including refugees and asylum-seekers), will not be arrested when approaching medical facilities.
She said this is an important step to build trust and confidence in order to help those in need of medical attention to come forward.
“UNHCR hopes that the government will continue the positive policy of providing free treatment and testing for individuals who exhibit Covid-19 symptoms.
“It is important not to separate refugees and asylum-seekers from the rest of the population in relation to Covid-19. The responsibility for prevention and management lies equally with all individuals in every community in Malaysia,” she added.
Yante said since the start of the outbreak, UNHCR has been coordinating closely with the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that all refugees and asylum-seeking communities are included in the Government’s national response measures and to prevent infection from spreading among the communities.
“UNHCR, together with our NGO partners IMARET, Muslim Relief Agency, and MERCY Malaysia, is also collaborating with the Ministry of Health district health officers to reach out to refugee communities where they live across Malaysia,” she said.
She said UNHCR has set up an information portal at www.refugee-malaysia.org where all refugees, asylum-seekers and organisations supporting refugees can get information on where to find help and services.
Yante said in addition to that, UNHCR has also established several Hotlines in six different languages for refugees who may not be able to access the national crisis Hotlines besides providing interpreters for translation services.
As of Feb this year, there are some 178,990 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, including some 154,080 who are from Myanmar — comprising 101,010 Rohingyas, 22,810 Chins, and 30,250 others.
“Some 68 per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers are men and boys, while 32 per cent are women and girls, whereas there are some 46,520 children below the age of 18,” she added. — Bernama