Migrant crackdown will worsen health crisis, say activists. Human rights activists have urged the government not to use the impending national lockdown as an excuse to crackdown on undocumented migrants, saying that the events of the past year have shown the health dangers of placing people in detention.
Although home minister Hamzah Zainudin had acknowledged overcrowding last year, he said the government was now ready, with satellite prisons and detention centres prepared. However, his remarks were criticised by the Tenaganita group.
Its executive director Glorene Das said that Tenaganita was “amazed at the cruelty of the actions” announced today.
Hamzah had said earlier today that the immigration department would conduct operations with the registration department and police to tighten border controls and detain undocumented migrants found at illegal entry hotspots.
“This is not only dehumanising, but this will contribute to the rise in cases. This would increase the burden on the already overloaded healthcare system,” she said, in reference to the high number of clusters that have been linked to detention centres over the past year.
Using the migrants as scapegoats
She accused the government of using the migrants as scapegoats, and to shift attention from the problems of the pandemic.
Instead, she said, the government should deal with the real problem arising from systemic exploitation of workers, which has led to the high number of undocumented migrants in the country.
North-South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira said the crackdown would interrupt the national vaccination programme as migrants would be less willing to come forward.
“The government says they won’t arrest migrants if they come out to be vaccinated, but then they say things like this, it erodes trust and discourages undocumented people from cooperating and getting their jabs.
“In fact, even after all the things they’ve said, they’ve never actually told the migrants how they can get vaccinated, how they can register, if they need to bring any extra documentation. We have offered to help, but we’ve heard nothing.”
John Quinley III, an activist with Fortify Rights, said the Malaysian government should be protecting migrant workers as one of the groups most badly affected by the pandemic.
“Putting more people in detention not only is a public health risk for the detainees but also officials in charge of operating the facilities,” he said.
Amnesty International Malaysia accused the government of “state-enforced cruelty” by using arrest and detention as a tool for immigration control. FMT
Migrant crackdown will worsen health crisis, say activists
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