Ipsos poll shows Malaysians now massively against refugees, 82pc want borders closed

General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 ― Malaysian respondents in a global Ipsos survey showed they were among those most in favour of closing their countries off to refugees in the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The poll showed that over four in five Malaysians held the view now or nearly double to what it was, 43 per cent, just a year ago.

Globally, the average of those agreeable to closing off borders to refugees has now risen to 49 per cent compared to 40 per cent in 2019.

In India, 68 per cent said they were in favour of barring entry to refugees, while 42 per cent in the US and 37 per cent in Japan expressed this view.

In the survey of 17,997 adults across 26 countries was conducted from May 22 to June 5, Malaysian respondents also returned among the highest rates (64 per cent) of those saying their countries should be less accepting of refugees due to Covid-19.

This was surpassed only by Russia (66 per cent) while the global average was again 49 per cent.

Just 2 per cent of Malaysian respondents said the country should be more open to refugees.

To the question of how their countries should adjust spending on refugees in the current climate, Malaysians were also strongly for decreasing spending, with 47 per cent supporting this.

Those in favour of increasing spending on refugees were 13 per cent while 32 per cent said there should be no change.

Canadians returned the highest responses for decreased spending at 49 per cent, followed by Great Britain at 41 per cent, the US and Australia at 40 per cent, while Japan and India scored 20 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

Malaysia has engaged in an apparent crackdown on undocumented migrants in the country that emerged during the country’s efforts to contain Covid-19.

As Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the country does not officially recognise refugees and asylum seekers, effectively rendering them illegal immigrants in the eyes of Malaysian law.

While Malaysia had been sympathetic to some groups such as the Rohingya being displaced by sectarian violence in Myanmar, it has since taken a dim view to those trying to enter Malaysia for asylum.

It has in recent weeks turned away several sea vessels carrying Rohingya refugees trying to make land in Malaysia, with government officials saying other countries must also do their part in accepting such asylum seekers.

Malaysia has also closed its borders to non-citizens as part of official efforts to contain Covid-19.

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