Eleyas, a Rohingya Muslim, fled to Malaysia six years in the past, looking for a secure haven from persecution in Myanmar.

Now he has been fired from his job by a boss who instructed him it was due to his origins and he’s scared to go away his residence in worry of arrest or harassment.

“I need to discover a new job, nevertheless it’s not secure. We’re all simply staying at residence,” Eleyas, 38, instructed Reuters, not giving his full identify for worry of retribution.

For many years, Muslim-majority Malaysia welcomed Rohingya and largely turned a blind eye to their technically unlawful employment in low-paying jobs.

However, as in another elements of the world, the novel coronavirus outbreak has turned sentiment towards foreigners, who’ve been accused of spreading illness, burdening the state and taking jobs because the financial system plummets.

Whereas the Rohingya have been the obvious targets, different migrants are additionally apprehensive in a rustic that depends closely on overseas labour at factories, development websites and plantations.

“There may be harassment on the streets and on-line. I’ve by no means seen something like this in Malaysia earlier than,” mentioned one Malaysian activist, Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi, from the European Rohingya Council rights group.

She was threatened with rape on Fb after asking the federal government to permit boats carrying Rohingya refugees to land. The federal government turned again one boat with 200 refugees on board final month.

The Rohingya are a minority from largely Buddhist Myanmar, which manufacturers them unlawful immigrants though many say they’ll hint their ancestry there for generations. Multiple million now reside in camps in Bangladesh.

Some 700,000 Rohingya fled from their houses in 2017 alone within the face of crackdown by Myanmar’s military.

Malaysia was lengthy seen as a haven of relative freedom and prosperity by Rohingya and it’s now residence to greater than 100,000 of them even supposing it manufacturers them unlawful immigrants relatively than refugees.


However the coronavirus modified the environment in direction of Malaysia’s estimated thousands and thousands of undocumented migrants and most of all in direction of the Rohingya.

Sentiment hardened as the federal government imposed economically paralysing motion restrictions to cease the unfold of a virus that has now contaminated greater than 7,000 individuals within the nation of 31 million and killed 115 of them.

Because the temper turned towards migrants, the federal government carried out raids this month wherein at the least 2,000 foreigners have been arrested, some led away in handcuffs by brokers in protecting gear.

The federal government has not given full particulars of the detainees’ nationalities, however at the least 800 of them have been from Myanmar and the overwhelming majority of individuals from Myanmar in Malaysia are Rohingya.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for touch upon the arrests and the backlash in direction of refugees and overseas staff.

The federal government has not mentioned what number of Rohingya have been discovered to have the virus.

Eleyas mentioned that because the temper soured, he and eight different Rohingya staff have been fired from their jobs at a grocery store. He didn’t determine the shop, for worry he might be focused.

“They instructed us they might now not make use of foreigners, solely Malaysians,” mentioned Eleyas. Reuters spoke to 5 different migrants who mentioned they’d lately misplaced their jobs.

Two activist teams estimate that about 80% of the refugees who had jobs earlier than lockdowns started have been jobless. The unemployment charge amongst Malaysians rose to a five-year excessive of three.9% in March.

“The group is in worry in the mean time. Their challenges have elevated because of the lockdown and the xenophobic angle,” mentioned Hasnah Hussein, a Rohingya volunteer at migrant rights group Tenaganita.

The Malaysian Employers’ Federation mentioned the firing of migrant staff was to be anticipated as companies struggled and undocumented staff can be first to go.

“Employers have at all times taken a threat by hiring refugees,” the group’s chief government, Shamsuddin Bardan, mentioned.

In the meantime, on-line assaults on Rohingya have surged – notably after unfounded allegations {that a} Rohingya activist had demanded Malaysian citizenship.

Tengku Emma mentioned that she had flagged tons of of examples to Fb together with the assaults on herself. She mentioned Fb suspended two pages with greater than 300,000 followers after she flagged them.

Fb mentioned it had eliminated content material in Malaysia for violating its insurance policies on hate speech, requires violence and sexual exploitation. It declined to say whether or not or not it had seen a rise.

Rights teams have accused the federal government of failing to reply to the assaults and a U.N. rights official mentioned the “hate marketing campaign” was undermining efforts to curb the coronavirus.

The federal government has reiterated that the migrants are unlawful immigrants and threatened authorized motion towards Rohingya advocacy teams, saying no Rohingya organisation had ever been formally registered in Malaysia.

“The ‘hate speech’ directed on the Rohingya group raises critical considerations in regards to the Malaysia authorities’s dedication to guard human rights,” a bunch of 84 non-governmental organisations wrote in a letter to Muhyiddin.

The federal government didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the letter.

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