Amnesty International warns Malaysia that more COVID-19 clusters will appear if migrant raids continue

The month of May began with uproars as authorities began raiding migrant communities in Malaysia.

And since then, things have remained the same as migrants in Malaysia continue to face the possibility of being locked up in one of the many migrant centers within the country for months and even years to come.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic constantly looming over the world and now undocumented migrants being packed into overflowing detention centers, it’s no surprise why Malaysia’s reported COVID-19 cases are continuing to grow with every passing day.

As of June 4, Malaysia currently has a total of 8,247 reported COVID-19 cases.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah continues to lead the fight against COVID-19. IMAGE: Facebook

The date also marked the highest number of positive cases reported at 277 since March 26 when 235 cases were recorded.

While some Malaysians may be taking the recorded numbers lightly as a majority of these cases are reportedly being spread among the migrant community in detention centers, Amnesty International is appalled at the growing number of clusters.

“Not only have undocumented migrants and refugees been taken to detention centers notorious for their poor conditions and the human rights violations committed there by detaining authorities; their health and lives amidst the COVID-19 pandemic have also been put at risk,” Preethi Bhardwaj, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, said in a statement released by Amnesty International.

“These centers have the potential to become the epicentre of the virus spreading, similar to what happened in Singapore where cases within migrant workers’ dormitories increased exponentially.”

 
Singapore was the poster child of coronavirus mitigation. But it soon became the most affected country in Southeast Asia.

Amnesty International also criticized the hate speech and xenophobia among Malaysian citizens and authorities who are “repeating hateful lies and stereotypes in relation to migrants.”

They specifically mention Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob who warned Malaysians to be worried about undetained migrants who could spread the coronavirus to “(Malaysia’s) own innocent citizens.”

Bhardwaj insists that the Malaysian government should be preventing the spread of misinformation instead of actively using the migrant communities as scapegoats.

“These statements are extremely dangerous as they perpetuate false stereotypes and lead to the greater persecution of already vulnerable communities,” Bhardwaj said.

 
Raids on Malaysia’s migrant communities prompt protests online through the hashtag #MigranJugaManusia.

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Cover image sourced from the Straits Times and the New Straits Times.