In Sabah, Malaysia, the pandemic is intensifying as migrants escape the test

On November 14, 2020, children are playing with ballooned medical gloves in the village of Bajauraut, a community of stateless sea nomads on Kerindingan Island, off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia.Distributors via Reuters / REUTERS

November 23, 2020

Rosanna Zambon

Kuala Lumpur (Reuters) – Some people flee on a boat. Some people are hiding in the stanchions under the house. Others hit the forest.

Stateless residents and undocumented migrants flee from public health authorities conducting coronavirus screening throughout Malaysia’s Sabah province on Borneo for fear of detention or deportation. ..

Competition for COVID-19 in Sabah, Malaysia’s largest palm oil producer, is complicated by an estimated 1 million undocumented migrants and stateless residents, who make up one-third of the population. I am.

Sabah accounts for nearly half of Malaysia’s 54,775 recorded COVID-19 infections and more than half of the 335 deaths, despite being only one-tenth the population of Southeast Asian countries. I will.

However, health officials fear that the situation could be much worse as people avoid screening for fear of detention and deportation.

Ahmed Han, an undocumented immigrant living on the outskirts of Semporna, Sabah, told Reuters that he “sees the authorities come and does what he always does.”

As of November 17, nearly one-fifth of state infectious diseases are related to foreigners, according to government data obtained by Reuters.

They included not only stateless indigenous communities, but also refugees and migrant workers from neighboring Philippines and Indonesia, the countries with the highest cases of coronavirus in the region.

Mackerel has recorded 192 deaths from COVID-19 so far. Of the 176 deaths recorded in the state as of November 16, 63 died before treatment, including 40 foreigners, according to data from Sabah’s Cabinet Minister Masidi Manjun. The data included both documented and undocumented migrants.

“Many people will run away when they see a nurse in their uniform or ambulance,” Mashidi, a state spokesman for the COVID-19 issue, told Reuters.

“We are always trying to convince them that they will not be arrested or deported when they go to the COVID-19 test, but to say the least, the reaction was sluggish. . “

Malaysia’s crackdown on undocumented migrants since the start of the pandemic has also exacerbated fears among vulnerable communities, rights groups say. The country has detained thousands, including during the blockade, for saying it is an effort to stop the spread of the virus.


Coronavirus infections have skyrocketed in Sabah since the state-wide elections in September.

Movement restrictions have already hit the production of Malaysia’s major export, palm oil, and a state of emergency has been declared in some areas of eastern Sabah to prevent by-elections during a pandemic.

Many undocumented people rely on doing strange jobs to survive and are forced to quarantine because they are deprived of their income due to blockades and are not eligible for government assistance. I am afraid that my family will not be able to protect themselves.

According to Sabah doctors, some migrants delay seeking treatment even after getting sick, which can lead to more serious COVID-19 infections and higher state mortality.

A doctor at Tawau Hospital in eastern Sabah refused to be identified as a staff member who was not allowed to speak to the media, but said that “many come only when they are in a difficult stage to breathe.” It was.

Health officials are working with aid groups and local governments to reach out to vulnerable groups, Minister Masidi said.

On the islands off Semporna, the mostly stateless sea nomadic Bajaulaut community persuaded health authorities to work with aid agencies to screen for supplies of rice, oil, infant formula, sanitary napkins, and more. Only moved forward later. pad.

But even after they were tested, many fled for fear of being quarantined in the land.

“Logistically, it’s a big challenge,” said Ahmad Kamil of the Surah-Alphala aid group based in Sabah.

“Many communities live in remote areas and remote islands, making it difficult to do contact tracing or transfer patients to medical facilities.”

(Report by Rozanna Latiff, edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

In Sabah, Malaysia, the pandemic is intensifying as migrants escape the test

Source link In Sabah, Malaysia, the pandemic is intensifying as migrants escape the test

Back to top button