Infection rates continue to climb in Malaysia’s latest wave of COVID-19 infections. National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme was launched in February, not long after it was announced that everyone would be included in the vaccination program, including undocumented migrants. However, the Malaysian government later reversed this decision and instead pledged to crack down on undocumented migrants amid a nationwide lockdown. This has led to the arrest of more than 500 migrant workers, bringing the number of undocumented migrants detained this year to more than 9,000

This U-turn by the Perikatan Nasional administration is unsurprising. Last May, the same assurance was given to undocumented migrants to coax them into coming forward to get tested for COVID-19, only for hundreds to later be arrested in raids by the immigration department. 

On this episode, Deborah Augustin speaks to Adrian Pereira from North South Initiative and Mohammed*, an undocumented migrant from Bangladesh, about how the Malaysian government’s decision to deprive undocumented migrants of vaccines endangers not only this marginalised community but also Malaysia’s chances of reaching herd immunity.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the guest’s identity due to fear for his safety. 

This interview was recorded on 14 July 2021

Wael Qarssifi

Wael Qarssifi is a refugee and journalist living in Malaysia. He covers the issues of refugees and migration.

Deborah Augustin

Deborah Germaine Augustin is a Malaysian writer and researcher. Previously, she worked as a Parliamentary Assistant for the MP of Kelana Jaya. She is currently working on a cross-genre chapbook about immigration in the United States. She is New Naratif's Member Engagement Coordinator. Reach her at