Ipsos survey: Malaysians with govt in closing borders to refugees, rather financial aid for own first

General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. — Picture Hari Anggara
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur June 13, 2021. — Picture Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — A recent Ipsos survey found that Malaysia’s sentiments have taken an about-turn when it comes to welcoming refugees to the country, with respondents stating that they supported the government's stand in closing the country’s borders.

This is a stark difference compared to pre-Covid times in 2019 when Malaysians were more willing and open to welcoming refugees to the country.

Just like most countries but with a firmer sentiment, spending money on supporting refugees is not welcomed by Malaysians either.

Survey respondents said that they would rather the government help them in terms of financial aid.

The average results of Ipsos’ recent global poll showed 82 per cent of Malaysian respondents agreeing that borders must remain closed to refugees and that they cannot be accepted in times of pandemic. The same percentage of respondents stated the same last year.

This was in stark contrast to the 43 per cent in 2019 who said as such in pre-pandemic times.

Ipsos’s findings were supported by the market research firm's survey conducted among 19,510 online adults aged 16 to 74 between May 21 and June 4, 2021.

Malaysia was also the second highest in global country average when asked if the country was more or less open to refugees compared to pre-pandemic times, with 59 per cent stating they were less open to the idea. Turkey was the highest with 67 per cent.

“The world is now a less welcoming place for refugees. Across the world, people favor less openness — this sentiment is stronger in Malaysia than in most other countries, but surpassed by Turkey, which hosts the most refugees in the world,” said Ipsos’s Public Affairs, Associate Director, Lars Erik Lie.

Similarly, Malaysia also continued to rank second highest with 44 per cent of respondents not agreeing with the country spending more money to support refugees around the world.

“They did not find it a priority and wanted the government to limit the financial impact of the pandemic,” Lie said.

In concluding the survey Lie said, “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.

“Malaysians are strongly in favor of keeping the borders completely closed for refugees, representing a sharp shift compared to 2019, before the pandemic. Across the world, citizens prefer their country to be less open to refugees, and the financial strains caused by the pandemic puts financial assistance to refugees lower on the agenda than before.”

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