KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Most Malaysians favoured closing their country’s borders to refugees amid growing doubt that such individuals were genuinely here to seek asylum, according to a survey by international market research firm Ipsos.
Around 72 per cent of Malaysians respondents said Malaysia should turn away refugees entirely as 73 per cent believed they came here for economic reasons and welfare services, a rise of 7 per cent compared to last year, Ipsos noted in its report titled “Global attitudes towards refugees” released yesterday.
“Malaysians are opposed to accepting refugees into the country. Attitude towards refugees has become less positive globally and in Malaysia since 2022.
“Many Malaysians view refugees as economic opportunists who do not contribute to the nation's development,” said Ipsos Malaysia managing director Arun Menon in a statement accompanying the findings.
Respondents were also suspicious that most refugees arrived on false pretences, and doubted the refugees’ integration and contribution to the host country.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents disagreed that refugees made a positive contribution to their country.
On the same note, Malaysians also expressed concern about the worsening levels of crime, disease, and hygiene due to refugees residing in their area.
According to the survey, 56 per cent of Malaysians were worried that crime might increase, while 54 per cent were worried about the spread of infectious diseases and the cleanliness of the local areas respectively.
Although the majority in most other countries supported letting refugees already present to remain, Malaysia and Turkey stood out as nations where the majority backed deporting existing refugees and barring entry to new ones.
Based on the survey, 52 per cent of Malaysians said refugees should be deported and not allowed any more whereas in Turkey, 59 per cent agreed to that.
When asked which is the most important reason for a country to accept refugees — humanitarian obligation, legal obligation under international law, to promote diversity and multiculturalism, to boost the economy by bringing in refugees with necessary skills, or none — 25 per cent of Malaysians said humanitarian obligation while 24 per cent said none.
In comparison, 34 per cent of the people of Turkey also said there are no important reasons for accepting refugees.
“Turkish and Malaysian populations have expressed the strongest opinions, with over half of them wanting to deport current refugees and not accepting any more. These countries do not see any compelling reason to take in more refugees, whether it's humanitarian, legal, or economic reasons,” said Arun.
Ipsos said its online survey was conducted among 21,816 adults aged 18 to 74 across 29 countries between April 22 and May 6.