Malaysian authorities are scrambling to track down about 2,000 Rohingya men who attended a religious gathering that has led to a big spike in coronavirus cases across Southeast Asia, according to a security source and two other people, Reuters reported yesterday.
— EdgeProp Malaysia (@myedgeprop) March 19, 2020
More than 100,000 Rohignya Muslims have been living in Malaysia after fleeing from Myanmar government’s discrimination and threats, but they are still considered illegal immigrants.
Their status would likely make them reluctant to identify themselves to get tested for COVID-19 even if they showed symptoms, Free Malaysia Today news outlet reported.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia said it was working with the Ministry of Health to ensure that all refugee and asylum-seeking communities were included in government response measures.
Important notice from @UNHCR_malaysia today!
— Ziaur Rahman (@ziaurmrr) March 14, 2020
UNHCR Malaysia has set up a Rohingya language hotline for COVID-19.
— Shafiur Rahman (@shafiur) March 20, 2020
Malaysia’s search for the Rohingya highlights the challenge for governments trying to track the virus among communities living without official papers and wary of authorities.
According to local sources, the religious gathering was attended by some 16,000 people. As well as the Rohingya and other refugees and undocumented migrants, about 1,500 Muslims from across Asia attended.
More than 670 coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia have been linked to the gathering, including 576 in Malaysia, 61 in Brunei, 22 in Cambodia, five in Singapore, seven in Thailand, and one each in Vietnam and the Philippines, Reuters reported.