Medan, Indonesia – Earlier this month, dozens of Rohingya refugees landed on a desert island off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province.
In: The refugees were at sea for more than 100 days, abandoned by a wooden fishing boat from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, were spotted on the island of Idaman by local fishermen who used the island as a resort for fishing trips.
On June 5, just one day after their arrival, all 81 refugees, including children, were vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The refugees have been vaccinated in conjunction with the local government,” Nasrudin, the humanitarian coordinator for the Indonesia-based Malaysian Refugee Education’s Psychological Assistance NGO, told Al Jazeera.
“When we found them, they were in a crisis situation on the island, without food, water or electricity, so the locals brought them food, and we brought them 50 tanks of water,” he added. “It was felt on the ground that we had to distribute our vaccines to the refugees in order to protect them. “No one complained that the vaccines were given to refugees.”
The province of Aceh has been widely praised by humanitarian groups, NGOs and the public for vaccinating Rohingya refugees, but asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers elsewhere in South East Asia have been less fortunate.
When Nasrudin assessed the 81 refugees on the island of Idama, they told him they wanted to go to Malaysia. Some had family members who already lived there, while others had the impression that the country was pursuing a more liberal refugee policy than its neighbors.
But like most countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, and although the government has said it will vaccinate everyone in the country, it has taken a hard line on undocumented migrant refugees, including the Rohingya.
“In February, the Cabinet of Ministers decided that in the interests of rebuilding the epidemic, all foreigners would receive free vaccinations, including undocumented refugees,” said Lilian Al Fan, co-founder and international director of the Geutanyoe Foundation in Kuala Lumpur.
The COVID-19 Immunization Committee նախարար Minister of Science Khayri Jam Amaluddin, as the Coordinator of the Vaccination Program, has advocated this approach.
“However, the recent statement by the Minister of Internal Affairs that undocumented persons should not be vaccinated with new pressure on migrants combined with documents contradicts the previous position of the government. hide more people to slow the recovery of the Malaysian epidemic. “
Malaysia entered its country the second strict block Following the increase in coronavirus cases in early June, hospitals and resuscitation departments were fully extended. The Ministry of Health announced 6,440 new cases on Friday.
The government has said it will ease the block as more people are vaccinated, and Kerry has repeatedly said the program will include all living in the country.
Why did the authorities spray disinfectants on undocumented migrants during last night’s operation?
What is the purpose of doing this? Will it not harm their health?
– Նորման Գոհ (@imnormgoh) June 7, 2021
But as it did during the first blockade last year, Malaysia has once again stepped up its crackdown on undocumented migrants.
Malaysian Interior Minister Hamza Ain Yuddin has announced that PATI, the acronym for undocumented Malay, will be arrested and sent to immigration detention centers.
He stressed this month that undocumented migrants should be “handed over” before they were vaccinated.
In early June, a video released by the state-run Bernama state news agency showed a disinfectant sprayed on 156 undocumented, undocumented migrants in the town of Cyberjaya near Malaysia International Airport, near Malaysia International Airport.
Last week, the Immigration Department posted a post on its Facebook page that resembled an action movie poster with the caption “Ethnic Rohingya migrants are not welcome.” After the protest, but not before it became widespread among the refugee communities, it was canceled.
The Malaysian Human Rights Commission on Monday expressed concern over “recent statements that present migrants, documented or irregular migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, a threat to the security of the country, a threat to the health of Malaysians,” and called on the government to reconsider its approach.
“Sowing fear through arrests and threats of detention of undocumented foreigners is ineffective in the light of ongoing efforts to overcome the epidemic and achieve odor immunity,” the statement said, stressing the plight of migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers.
At the end of May, about 57 percent of the 179,570 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia were Rohingya.
Unofficial estimates suggest that the country may have up to three million undocumented migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Mixed reports of refugee vaccinations are not unique to Malaysia.
In a statement issued in early June, the UN refugee agency warned that a shortage of vaccines in the Asia-Pacific region was endangering the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.
“Refugees are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. “Overcrowded human settings, combined with limited water and sanitation facilities, could increase the risk of infection and exponentially spread the virus,” said Andrei Mahecic, UNHCR spokesman.
There are almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, making it the largest densely populated cluster of refugee camps in the world. According to Mahechich, there are a number of COVID-19 cases in the camps has grown sharply in the last two months.
As of May 31, there were more than 1,178 confirmed cases among the refugee population, more than half of which were registered in May alone.
None of the Cox Bazar refugees have yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mahecic added that many countries in the Asia-Pacific region do not have enough vaccines to bypass, leaving groups such as migrant workers and asylum seekers left out.
UNHCR has noted a “worrying increase” in coronavirus cases among asylum seekers in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In any case, Indonesia seems to be doing more to solve the problem.
According to the IOM, which in early June vaccinated more than 900 refugees in Pekanbaru, Riau, Indonesia, in collaboration with local authorities, began to follow the example of Ache.
“The IOM welcomes Pekanbaru’s government response to making vaccines available to the city’s refugee community,” Arian Hassanaj Sojoeti, ION Indonesia’s national media communications officer, told Al Azeri, adding that all refugees in the city are now 18 years old. received vaccines.
“Vaccines are one of our most cost-effective tools for preventing outbreaks, keeping individuals and, consequently, entire communities safe and healthy,” he said.
“The virus knows no borders, no nationality. nor our solidarity. “