PETALING JAYA: The leader of an organisation representing the people of the Chin state in Myanmar says members of the community in Pudu fear they will be deported following the move to place the area under semi-enhanced movement control order (SEMCO) and given the recent immigration raids elsewhere in the city.
James Bawi Thang Bik, who leads the Alliance of Chin Refugees, said this had discouraged many of the migrants, especially those who are undocumented, from coming forward to be screened for Covid-19.
“I have been getting calls asking if they will be arrested or sent back to Myanmar.
“I can’t tell them ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I can only encourage them to get tested,” he told FMT, hours after the police and army cordoned off roads and put up barbed wire fencing in the area.
The move to place the Pudu area under SEMCO followed a reported spike of Covid-19 cases involving migrants in the vicinity.
SEMCO allows authorities to conduct Covid-19 tests on residents and foreign workers. People are still allowed to move in and out of the area if they have valid reasons.
James, who is working to mobilise food aid for the Chin community in Pudu, said prior to the lockdown, migrants in the area had been willing to get tested for Covid-19 as they wanted to return to work.
Adding that he had been working with other NGOs to get undocumented migrants screened for the virus, he said many had even asked where they could go to get tested.
“But now, after the previous raids, they are afraid of the authorities knocking on their doors and handcuffing them. So they are afraid now to even get tested.”
As their leader, he added, he could not promise them that they would not be nabbed.
“When a caller asked me about it this morning, I cried because I knew the answer but I couldn’t tell them.”
There are around 2,000 Chin migrants in Pudu, some 300 of whom live in the area under lockdown.
According to James, about 50% of them are undocumented and waiting to register with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
A raid earlier this week on the area surrounding the Selayang wholesale market in Kuala Lumpur saw over 1,000 undocumented migrants detained, including 98 children.
Two neighbourhoods in the area as well as part of the city’s Chow Kit locality were placed under similar restrictions earlier this month.
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