PETALING JAYA: More than 50% of Malaysians believe people claiming to be refugees and entering the country are economic migrants and want to claim welfare benefits, says an independent market research firm.
To mark World Refugee Day, Ipsos, in its "Global attitudes towards refugee” study, found that there is growing scepticism among Malaysians concerning refugees.
It said 61% believed that refugees came into the country for economic reasons or to take advantage of the welfare services, while only 24% were of the belief that the asylum-seekers entering the country were truly genuine.
Ipsos added that similar sentiments were seen globally with India (70%), Turkey (69%), South Africa (66%) and Great Britain (51%) agreeing that refugees coming to the country were not genuine.
The study found that 57% of Malaysians agreed that people had the right to seek refuge to escape war and persecution, which was close to the global average of 61%.
However, while Malaysians might agree to the right of refugees to seek refuge, they were split when it came to accepting refugees.
The study said 43% of Malaysians agreed, while another 43% disagreed when it came to opening the borders to genuine asylum-seekers.
It also found that only 38% of Malaysians think most refugees who have entered the country would successfully integrate, while 44% of Malaysians were less convinced refugees would be able to successfully integrate.
It also found that countries which were most optimistic about refugees successfully integrating into society were India (68%), Argentina (58%) and Saudi Arabia (55%).
Ipsos added that as the refugee crisis continued, perception about asylum seekers are downbeat in many countries, with opinions towards refugees still containing negative attitudes.
“The refugee crisis has escalated sharply in the last decade. As a host country, Malaysia has maintained a humanitarian approach to refugees, especially towards the Rohingya community.
"The refugee crisis is one that is unlikely to abate in the near future, and thus has ominous implications both politically and economically for Malaysia.
"Protection of genuine asylum-seekers is a step towards getting basic human rights like healthcare and education accessible to them.
"This will also help in assuaging the negative perception that many Malaysians have towards refugees," Ipsos managing director Arun Menon said in a statement on Thursday (June 20).
Ipsos polled 18,027 adults aged 16 to 64 countries globally, including Malaysia. It said more than 500 Malaysians were sampled via its Ipsos Online Panel.