Crackdown on illegals will prove counter-productive, warns Suhakam

Suhakam says despite government assurances, many migrants are reluctant to come forward for Covid-19 testing.

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has added its voice to growing criticisms on the authorities’ recent crackdown on undocumented migrants in Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement, it said it was appalled by reports of the crackdown which it said are counter-productive when the country is trying to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The operation, targeting undocumented migrants at Jalan Masjid India in the city centre, has also come under fire from local and international rights activists.

Suhakam said that Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had given his assurance that those stepping forward to be tested or treated for Covid-19 would not be arrested, based on their immigration status, while the health ministry had said treatment would be free for all.

“This was, by all intents and purposes, the right move and had been praised by many quarters, demonstrating the government’s focus to address the urgent public health issue, rather than incriminating those with questionable status in the country.

“Despite the government’s assurances, persistent fears remain among the vulnerable communities, including migrants, refugees and the stateless, on possible negative repercussions, resulting in the reluctance of many to come forward for testing.”

The large-scale arrests of the undocumented migrants on Friday, Suhakam said, also reinforced the negative perception within the communities and reaffirmed their fear of arrest and detention.

“As a consequence, one can expect that these vulnerable people will be less willing to come forward for any tests or medical treatment, regardless of the argument or persuasion for them to do so.”

Suhakam urged the authorities to immediately cease the arrests of undocumented migrants and honour the government’s initial promise of locating and treating people, regardless of their immigration status.

“Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution mandates the government to ensure that no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty, including that necessary for the sustenance of life, such as food, work and health.”

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.