Bukit Jalil cluster sparks fears of new Covid-19 wave

The Bukit Jalil immigration depot is now classified as a new Covid-19 cluster following 35 new cases. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Various groups have voiced fears of a new wave of Covid-19 infections caused by the detention of large numbers of migrants arrested in recent raids.

They said there could be an expansion of the cluster of infections recently detected at the Bukit Jalil immigration depot.

The depot was classified as a new Covid-19 cluster yesterday after the detection of 35 positive cases there. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the 35 were placed at the depot before the movement control order (MCO) was enforced on March 18.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said the hundreds of new detainees were now at high risk of being infected.

Galen’s Azrul Mohd Khalib said those working at the centres were also at risk.

He said it would have been safer if the immigration department had chosen to conduct its procedures wherever the migrants were located instead of first transporting them to detention centres and increasing their vulnerability to infection.

He also said Putrajaya should have announced a moratorium on immigration raids during the Covid-19 crisis.

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran said the bad conditions at detention facilities, with their poor hygiene and confined spaces, only served to encourage infections.

He said there was also the risk of new detainees causing more infections.

González Morales, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on migrant rights, said preventive measures such as social distancing were not possible in detention centres.

In a statement, he urged the authorities to find alternatives to detention at such facilities.

North-South Initiative director Adrian Pereira said continuing with immigration raids and the detention of migrants would put everyone at risk, including enforcement officers.

“Now is clearly not the time to fix the mess which we are responsible for, which is the labour trafficking and forced labour that has been going on for decades,” he said.

“Let’s use alternatives to detention to manage the situation.”

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