Malaysia can’t take any more Rohingya refugees, PM says

This handout photo from Malaysia's Department of Information taken and released on May 18, 2020 shows Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wearing a face mask during the opening ceremony of the third term of the 14th parliamentary session in Kuala Lumpur. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Malaysia can’t take any more Rohingya refugees, PM says

  • Muslim-majority Malaysia has long been a favored destination for Rohingya seeking a better life after fleeing a 2017 military-led crackdown in Myanmar

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia can no longer take in Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday, citing a struggling economy and dwindling resources as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has long been a favored destination for Rohingya seeking a better life after fleeing a 2017 military-led crackdown in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.
But Malaysia, which does not recognize refugee status, has recently turned away boats and detained hundreds of Rohingya, amid rising anger toward foreigners who have been accused of spreading the coronavirus and taking up scarce state funds.
“We can no longer take more as our resources and capacity are already stretched, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Muhyiddin said in teleconference with other leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar.
“Yet, Malaysia is unfairly expected to do more to accommodate incoming refugees.”
The treatment of Rohingya has been divisive for ASEAN, with its two Muslim-majority members — Malaysia and Indonesia — criticizing Buddhist-majority Myanmar and expressing growing frustration with Rohingya arriving on boats operated by people smugglers.
Myanmar denies abuses against members of the minority in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, but says the Rohingya are not citizens but illegal immigrants from South Asia.
Rohingya have for years boarded boats between November and April, when the seas are calm, to get to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Muhyiddin urged the UN refugee agency to speed up the resettlement of Rohingya in Malaysia to third countries. The agency says there are more than 100,000 Rohingya in Malaysia though rights groups say the number is higher.
He also called for more efforts to combat the trafficking of Rohingya, who he said were increasingly at risk for exploitation, slavery and recruitment by militants.
“ASEAN must do more to help Myanmar, and Myanmar must also do more to help itself for this crisis to be put behind us,” he said.
Dozens of Rohingya died and their bodies were thrown overboard from a boat that later landed on a Malaysian island this month with 269 people on board, authorities said.
On Thursday, nearly 100 Rohingya were rescued by fishermen from a boat adrift off Indonesia.


Rome suspends flights from Bangladesh after virus cases

Updated 3 min 19 sec ago

Rome suspends flights from Bangladesh after virus cases

ROME: Italy’s health minister ordered the suspension of flights to Rome from Bangladesh on Tuesday, after a spate of coronavirus cases within the community that authorities worry could expand.
On Monday, the Lazio region surrounding Rome issued a special decree calling for passengers from Dhaka to be given virus tests upon their arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Of the 225 arriving Dhaka passengers on Monday, 21 tested positive for the disease, Lazio’s top health official Alessio D’Amato said on Tuesday, calling it a “veritable viral ‘bomb’ that we’ve defused.”
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement that a one-week suspension of flights had been ordered.
As of Monday, 32 coronavirus cases had been reported within the Bangladeshi community, Lazio president Nicola Zingaretti wrote in the decree. It was unclear whether that number included the positive cases among the passengers who arrived Monday.
Seventeen of the 32 cases were “imported” from abroad and 15 involved people in contact with those imported cases, the decree said.
It added that a two-week quarantine for passengers from Bangladesh had been insufficient to contain transmission of the virus.
There are currently 870 coronavirus cases in Lazio, with 14,709 in Italy overall, according to the latest official figures.
Since the crisis erupted in Italy in late February, 34,869 people have died of coronavirus, but the rate of new infections has slowed considerably, leading the government to roll back most lockdown restrictions.
Still, Speranza has warned of a possible second wave in the autumn, and has cautioned Italians to wear masks and avoid crowds, among other measures.
“The objective is to prevent the outbreak that is currently seen in Rome in the Bengali community from multiplying,” Francesco Vaia, health director of Rome’s Spallanzani hospital, told news wire AGI.
“It’s essential to put under control airports, ports and stations and activate a health surveillance on citizens coming from the non-Schengen area and in particular from countries where the virus is spreading.”
Beginning last month, passengers from Dhaka have arrived on special flights intended to bring Bangladeshi nationals residing in Italy back to their European homes and jobs following the coronavirus lockdown.
Italy’s borders are only open to those passengers coming from within Europe’s Schengen zone, as well as those from another 14 countries — a list that does not include Bangladesh.
Lazio has sought to offer more testing for the community of Bangladeshis which numbers about 30,000 in Italy’s capital, but only three people showed up at a special clinic offering free testing on Monday, Il Messagero daily said.
About 45,000 Bangladeshis reside in Italy, according to national statistics agency Istat.
Migration from Bangladesh to Italy has grown in recent years and many within the community work illegally in low-paying jobs.
Other cases involving Bangladeshis with links to flights from Dhaka have also been seen in Tuscany, according to news reports.