Reports of abuse at camp untrue, says watchdog

Yaacob Md SamPUTRAJAYA: Reports of inmate abuse and resulting deaths at an immigration detention depot in Penang are not true, an enforcement agencies’ watchdog here said today.

Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) Chairman Yaacob Md Sam said it made a “surprise visit” to the Juru detention centre earlier this week and found the allegations of “bashing and killing” were baseless.

“Based on our investigations, claims that five Cambodian women and two Vietnamese women were hurt due to the excessive use of force by immigration officers at the Juru depot have been found to be baseless.

“There were only 10 women in detention and only one of them was from Cambodia,” he said in a statement today.

Cambodian newspaper The Cambodia Daily reported earlier this month that three female inmates were beaten to death, with another four dying in hospital. They based this report on a Cambodian woman who was recently repatriated from the depot.

According to Yaacob, there was only one Cambodian in the cohort of 10 women inmates, an 18-year-old named “Kheng.”

“She was found to be in possession of an invalid travel document and also told us that she was treated well by officers at the depot.”

Yaacob said 17 Cambodian women were detained at the camp from December to June, all of whom were repatriated on July 13.

He said there were five deaths recorded at the depot last year, all of which were due to bad health. He added that all of the sick inmates were taken to hospital for treatment.

According to statistics provided, the five deaths were caused by pneumonia and other infections. Four of them were women.

“The depot commandant had made police reports. He ensured the deceased bodies were not moved until the paramedics, coroner and the police arrived,” Yaacob added.

However, the commission, accompanied by two Malaysia Human Rights Commission members, found two defects with the depot.

Yaacob said 19 closed-circuit television cameras were found to be “out of order” since 2014.

“The investigation team found that the lack of funds to repair these cameras was the primary cause of the problem.”

Yaacob said the second problem was the derelict condition of the depot itself, which was flagged as “serious” and required “urgent attention.”

“We have recommended that the home ministry expedite the building of a new detention camp, in view of the present dilapidated state of the depot.”

According to the EAIC, the depot was bursting at its seams, with 595 detainees. Of that number, 472 were men and 123, women.

The depot is gazetted to hold a maximum 500 inmates only.

Of the inmates, Myanmars were the highest number at 289, followed by those from Indonesia (100), Bangladesh (94), China (25), Thailand (24), Nepal (14), Pakistan (14), India (13), Vietnam (8), the Philippines (8), Palestine (2). Nigeria, Brazil, Laos and Cambodia recorded one inmate each.

Earlier report: