Time to Embrace, Not Shun, Malaysia’s Migrant Community: Malaysia Should Recognize our Shared Humanity and Welcome Neighbors in Need

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The Diplomat


Malaysia, like the United States, is a country of indigenous, immigrant, and refugee peoples. And like the United States — whose iconic Statue of Liberty proclaims the familiar words “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — Malaysia is treating as disposable a new generation of people arriving at its shores, fleeing violence and looking to rebuild lives and livelihoods. In the midst of a global pandemic, the Perikatan Nasional government, recently installed following the tumultuous overthrow of Pakatan Harapan, is rounding up hundreds of South Asian migrant workers (and their families) and confining them in detention centers. While Malaysia has housed over 100,000 Rohingya refugees, they also recently turned back to sea boats carrying Rohingya refugees, citing COVID-19 concerns. In short, Malaysia is refusing to recognize the humanity of our neighbors at a pivotal moment when a global pandemic is showing us that we are all in the same boat; our survival depends on how we treat each other.


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