Safiqul* is a 29-year-old man who lives in the refugee community in Alor Setar, Kedah. He is married with two (2) children and is currently jobless for six (6) months. He worked in a local environment cleaning team and lost the job due to COVID-19.
He was forced to leave his homeland in Rakhine state, Myanmar, due to the military oppression and to seek refuge in a nearby country. In Rakhine state, Myanmar, his family had a farm, when the government military came and set a fire to his village. His family decided he must escape from Myanmar to survive. His family sold their land and pay an agent 7,000 MYR (1,750 USD) for him a trip to a safe country, Malaysia.
Safiqul’s journey was painful and dangerous. From Myanmar, the agent sent Safiqul and another 60 persons with a boat to Thailand. In a small and crowded boat, Safiqul spent 18 days in the dangerous open sea. He felt hungry, thirsty, and in constant fear of drowning in the sea. Finally, when the boat first landed in Thailand, (not directly to Malaysia) the agent made him wait for three (3) months in Thailand before smuggling him to Malaysia via Padang Besar. As he thought he was finally safe and looking for asylum, he was arrested by the Malaysian Police in Sungai Petani and put in detention for 8 months and 15 days as an illegal immigrant without a valid document.
The authorities released him after he received a UNHCR card. Living in Malaysia was not easy for him, but at least he can always find a job for a living. From a zero start, during nine (9) years living in Kedah, Malaysia, he now has a family. Currently, he is a married man with two children.
When COVID-19 hit Malaysia with a lockdown, he did not prepare for all the consequences. He lost his job as a road sweeper and for six (6) months he cannot find any new job. His previous jobs gave him a salary of around 1,000 MYR (250 USD) per month. This amount was enough to pay the house rent, food, electricity, and needs of his children. After losing his job, Safiqul tried to survive by borrowing money from his friends. He also received food aid from neighbours. He did know many organizations, as he has never received any aid before. He heard about NTA-JRS from his friends. Then, he tried if he would also receive assistance.
“I am very grateful for the cash aid, for six (6) months I cannot find any job,” Safiqul said. He stated that the COVID-19 situation is really difficult because he has the responsibility to feed his children. He stated that JRS was very new to him but he planned to pay the house rent with this aid. He believes that the aid will help him to manage his financial struggles.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.