PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has highlighted “unsanitary” and “poor” conditions at the Tanah Merah immigration depot in Kelantan.
Suhakam’s chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said that the commission had made a site visit to the depot on Aug 23 to inspect the conditions and human rights situation there.
“In terms of the physical and building conditions, Suhakam found that two out of the three main blocks made of wooden structures were dilapidated. To make matters worse, the conditions were unsanitary and the blocks were poorly maintained,” said Razali in a statement on Wednesday.
He said that a significant number of the detainees complained of health problems ranging from scabies to back and stomach pains.
Razali also noted the lack of sufficient ventilation and unacceptable conditions in the toilets.
“In one block that housed male detainees, all five toilets were blocked and not functioning. The toilet conditions in the other male blocks were also wholly unacceptable,” he said.
He said that there was also a lack of an outdoor recreation area for detainees and the “psychological impact” of the conditions was “apparent” to the delegation.
“Due to the extremely poor conditions, even the facility staff faced serious health problems.
“It is Suhakam’s view that the poor conditions may further contribute to the mental health concerns of both detainees and staff,” said Razali.
He added that during the visit, there were 429 detainees, which is above the gazetted capacity of 350 people, including 35 women and 82 children below 18 years of age.
However, according to him, the Ministry of Home Affairs had determined that the Depot could accommodate up to 800 detainees.
Razali said that the delegation found that the food and water quality at the site was acceptable and that the kitchen and food preparation are were clean and well maintained.
Razali also provided three recommendations put forward by the commission to improve the situation at the depot.
Firstly, he advised that the proper maintenance of the sanitation facilities.
Secondly, he viewed the placement of an assistant medical officer at the depot as being inadequate to attend to the number of detainees present and recommended that a medical officer be appointed immediately.
Razali also suggested that the Ministry of Health provides “compulsory, free of charge and target specific periodic health screening” for immigration staff at the depot.