UN warns police raids will push migrants into hiding

The authorities rounded up undocumented migrants in raids at several locations around Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: The United Nations (UN) has raised concerns over the large-scale arrest of undocumented migrants in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, describing the operations as a setback in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

A UN spokesman said all foreigners, documented or otherwise, should have access to health services and assistance, without fear of negative repercussions.

“The fear of arrest and detention may push these vulnerable population groups further into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment, with negative consequences for their own health and create further risks to the spreading of Covid-19 to others,” it said in a statement.

“Inclusive and non-discriminatory policies are essential to strengthen the response and recovery from Covid-19.”

The UN said that in line with Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and with the “Leaving no one behind” commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, all state parties must ensure that the welfare of the most vulnerable, including migrant communities, are indeed not left behind in this fight against the virus.

“This means to implement as a matter of priority non-custodial and community-based alternatives to detention and, where relevant, to avoid immigration detention altogether.

“Overcrowded conditions in immigration detention centres carry a high risk of increasing Covid-19 infection among both detainees and staff.

“It is especially important to prioritise the release of all children and their caregivers from immigration detention.

“Covid-19 does not discriminate. Equally, we should not discriminate in our fight to end Covid-19. We all must ensure that nobody is left behind.”

Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said authorities conducted large-scale joint operations to weed out undocumented foreigners during the MCO as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Hamid said the operations involving police, the immigration, the armed forces and health ministry, were to ensure no undocumented immigrants sneak out from identified areas and spread the disease somewhere else.

“We cannot allow them to move freely while the MCO is still enforced as it will be difficult for us to track them down if they leave identified locations.”

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