I Found Peace in a Foreign Land

Atabuddin arrived in Malaysia eight years ago. He is one of roughly one million Rohingya who have fled Myanmar and sought refuge across Asia, including over 100,000 in Malaysia.

“There were no opportunities for me back home,” he says recalling the violence and persecution he and others faced in his native Rakhine State.

His arduous journey to Malaysia took many months.

He travelled to Yangon by boat, and onwards to Myawaddy to cross into Thailand, traversing the country’s south on foot before entering Malaysia.

No different from what hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya experience, it was a journey filled with risks. Aside from being exposed to trafficking and exploitation, the lives of Rohingya are often at the mercy of smugglers. Whether moving by land or by sea, many unfortunately perish along the way.

Atabuddin has been living in Malaysia for over eight years, after fleeing violence and persecution at home.
IOM/Azwan Rahim

Despite what he has experienced during his journey, Atabuddin has a positive outlook.

“Life is better here. We can live as a family. We feel safer. Those around us share the same cultural values,” he expresses – noting, however, how fondly he misses one of his daughters who remains in Myanmar and was unable to escape with him.

Atabuddin emphasises that the support he receives from fellow Rohingya in his community has been vital, especially during COVID-19.

When we see that some are struggling, others will offer free food or discounts for goods at their shops

Although stigma and discrimination from host communities continue to be a challenge for Rohingya, Atabuddin quips that – “any discrimination we face here can never be worse than what we faced at home.”

Overall, Atabuddin is happy to find a sense of safety in another country.
IOM/Azwan Rahim

He confides that lately he has been struggling to make ends meet after encountering health issues, compounded by the lack of income-generating opportunities during the pandemic.

In response, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported Atabuddin with MYR 1,500 (approximately USD 350) to help pay his rent. This is part of IOM’s cash-based rental assistance programme, funded by the European Union, for Rohingya who face frequent threats of eviction.

Through an evaluation process IOM selects the most the most vulnerable refugees in need of assistance – including female-headed households, households with children or elderly individuals, victims of gender-based violence, single parents, the unemployed and those with critical medical conditions.

As Atabuddin looks proudly over at his wife displaying some learning material she uses to educate their grandson at home, he shares: “Even if I am going to die here, I feel happy. I am at peace.”

This story was written by Miko Alazas, IOM Media and Communications Officer, aalazas@iom.int.