The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has urged the government to ensure refugees will be included in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP).
As part of the commission’s message for World Refugee Day today, it said no one should be excluded from vaccination efforts in order to protect all people from the deadly coronavirus.
“Suhakam supports this year’s theme ‘Together we heal, learn and shine’, reminding us that the world cannot overcome Covid-19 if it overlooks refugees, or anyone for that matter, as no one is safe until everyone is safe.
“In managing the Covid-19 pandemic, Suhakam hopes that the government will uphold the principles of leaving no one behind, by ensuring refugees are included in the national vaccination programme and provided safe spaces to receive it,” Suhakam said in its commemorative statement.
The commission called on the government to adopt comprehensive, inclusive, non-discriminatory and long-term refugee protection policies.
The government should also maintain its international leadership through deepening cooperation with regional and international communities to identify sustainable solutions for the refugee issues in this region, it added.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 179,570 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, as of May.
Of that figure, 45,980 of them are children below the age of 18.
“Their vulnerabilities remain, as their access to basic needs such as education, healthcare and social protection are still not a given, even for UNHCR cardholders.
“Suhakam recognises the need for cooperation between UNHCR in Malaysia, government agencies and civil society organisations whose combined efforts would allow for refugees to receive the care they need and protection they seek,” it said.
As such, Suhakam vowed to continue its efforts to advocate for the accession of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Optional Protocol of 1967.
At the same time, it appealed to the rakyat to understand the refugees’ unfortunate circumstances, as they are forced to flee from their home country to seek a temporary place for safety and survival.
“Malaysians, as a whole, should undertake to ensure the refugee community in the country will be treated with dignity and have their basic needs met, ultimately leading to a more humane, just, inclusive and equal society,” the commission said.