Stop raids on migrants during Covid-19 crisis, urge NGOs

Four NGOs have appealed for a temporary amnesty for Malaysia’s migrant communities.

PETALING JAYA: Several human rights NGOs are urging the government to announce a moratorium on raids by enforcement agencies on migrant communities and a temporary amnesty during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a joint statement, the four NGOs say this does not mean the government should stop border controls or take anti-human trafficking action.

“But it is meant to ensure undocumented migrants have safe passages to seek medical help and to survive,” they said.

The statement was signed by Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT), Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), Concerned Lawyers For Justice (CLJ) and Tenaganita.

The NGOs claimed that they have received an anonymous report that many foreign workers were detained by the authorities in the past week.

They called on the home minister to announce what action has been taken to filter those arrested and staff of detention centres who may be exposed to the virus.

They also expressed concern that Putrajaya has yet to announce any Covid-19 measures to address illegal foreign workers in Malaysia, noting that there are over four million of them in the country.

Public policy measures such as the movement control order (MCO), they said, have resulted in immense hardship for these foreign workers.

And while the impact has been mitigated by feeding programmes initiated by many NGOs, it was not enough.

“For tracing and isolation measures to work, foreign workers must be included as members of the infected and likely-to-be-infected members of the population,” the statement said.

As this group of workers can be penalised under immigration laws, they would shy away from seeking treatment, the NGOs added.