Pandemic has left many countries less welcoming to refugees, survey finds

PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 crisis has left Malaysians less welcoming towards refugees compared to pre-pandemic times, a study has found.

Market research company Ipsos' findings showed that 82% of Malaysians polled want the country's borders closed to refugees.

The research was based on an online survey conducted among 19,510 adults aged 16 to 74 between May 21 and June 4.

However, the research noted that Malaysia is not the only country to be less welcoming towards refugees.

Research by Ipsos showed 67% of Turkish citizens polled said they prefer their country's borders to be closed to refugees.

Other countries less receptive towards refugees include South Korea at 42%, Britain (42%), Australia (35%), the United States (35%), India (32%) and Japan (26%).

At the same time, the survey also found that citizens around the world disagreed with their government spending on refugees.

"With governments across the world fighting to limit the financial impact of the pandemic, citizens across the world do not consider spending on supporting refugees a priority," Ipsos said.

In the research, Turkey has the highest rate of disagreement on spending public money on refugees with 60%, followed by Malaysia (44%), Britain (39%), the United States (32%), Australia (31%), South Korea (29%), India (27%) and Japan (18%).

Ipsos Public Affairs associate director Lars Erik Lie said refugee acceptance is a highly contentious issue in most countries even during normal times.

With borders closed caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he noted, the world has become an even less welcoming place for refugees.

"Malaysians are strongly in favour of keeping the borders completely closed to refugees, representing a sharp shift compared to 2019, before the pandemic.

"Across the world, citizens prefer their countries to be less open to refugees, and the financial strains caused by the pandemic put assistance to refugees lower on the agenda than before," he said in a statement on Wednesday (June 23).

Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, with data by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showing there are four million refugees residing in the country, 3.6 million of whom are Syrian refugees.

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