Stop arrests and free detainees, say groups

PETALING JAYA: The government should stop arresting undocumented migrants and release those picked up earlier, following the rise in Covid-19 cases at three Immigration detention centres, say human rights groups.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das believes that no priority was given to testing, screening and social distancing in the Immigration depots.

Glorene said Tenaganita stood by its earlier statement that called for the immediate repatriation and release of those detained at the detention centres.

“The government must immediately halt the ongoing arrests of undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons. The Health Ministry must work with the Immigration Department and Home Ministry to handle the current situation,” she said, adding that independent bodies such as civil society groups should be allowed to have monitoring visits.

Human rights group North-South Initiative (NSI) director Adrian Pereira claimed that detention centres in Malaysia had for years been “notorious” for overcrowding and poor healthcare.

Pereira said alternatives to detention centres should be used, especially during high-risk times like now.

On Facebook, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said as the virus spread at these centres, the authorities needed to enhance active case detection, and immediately isolate and treat positive cases.

“Quarantine those close contacts and decontaminate the respective centres. The virus knows no boundaries and does not favour any ethnicity and social status.

“Our whole government and whole community approach should work together to fight the virus. Negative sentiments against detainees must not be amplified and must not be a catalyst for discrimination in saving lives,” he said.

Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) said testing and contact tracing in relation to migrant workers should be ramped up.

Its president Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan said this was important because migrant workers had been identified as a high-risk group, besides being the “hidden reservoir” for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

“The government should review, improve and enhance the existing mechanism for Covid-19 testing of foreign workers, especially those in the construction sector,” he said.

In a statement on Sunday, he said at the current rate of testing, it might take another six months to complete the testing of the estimated two million documented migrants workers, and this would seriously hamper the government’s ongoing efforts to revive the economy.

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