Putrajaya defends Covid-19 policies on undocumented migrants

Undocumented migrants being rounded up in a recent raid by the immigration department.

PUTRAJAYA: Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob today defended Putrajaya’s policies on undocumented migrants during the Covid-19 outbreak, hitting out at those who label their treatment as “inhumane”.

At a press conference here, he said Malaysia needed migrant workers, and that those who entered legally were given rights and protection in line with domestic and international laws.

He said action was only taken against undocumented migrants who were detained. Even then, he added, they were treated humanely and given food and shelter.

He said undocumented migrants were also screened for Covid-19, with those who test positive given treatment at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS).

The government had spent millions turning MAEPS into a temporary hospital for Covid-19 patients, he added.

“If there is an increase in cases, we have designated two more places (for treatment), to make sure they are not just abandoned. We save them and put them in the best facility to look after their health.

“It is not right to say that the government is treating them inhumanely.

“It also does not change their status as undocumented, with no right to be here as they entered the country illegally,” he said.

He said this was why the government was discussing the issue of repatriation with the migrants’ home countries.

“If possible, we do not even want to jail them (for immigration offences.”

He added however that the government could not just release them at the depots as they had broken the country’s laws.

He likewise challenged those who said the authorities had raided undocumented migrants in areas under enhanced movement control order (EMCO).

Giving the example of the EMCO at Selangor Mansion, he said the area had been locked down, with no one allowed to leave.

“Among them were 586 undocumented migrants. When the EMCO was lifted, we wanted to open the area and remove the barbed wire around the building so that the people would be free to move around.

“Undocumented migrants do not have travel documents. We cannot release them. If we do, the immigration department would be in the wrong for allowing them to go free.”

He said this was why the undocumented migrants were taken to the depots.

“It is not that we were taking advantage of the EMCO to carry out raids.”

He also said other countries had treated undocumented migrants far worse, adding that there was no need for politicians or NGO leaders to take advantage of the situation to become “heroes” to the migrants.

On a separate matter, Ismail said the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry had opened 627 cases into offences under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 and the Weights and Measures Act 1972.

These cases saw RM26.2 million worth of goods seized.

Ismail also said 815 Malaysians returned from Singapore, Thailand, China, India, Japan, Bangladesh and Australia yesterday and are now under quarantine.

“A total of 42,000 Malaysians who returned from overseas have been quarantined since April 3,” he said, adding that to date, 34,011 people have completed their quarantine and been allowed to return home.

He also said non-teaching administrative staff at schools are required to return to work even though schools are still closed as they are public servants.

“Only teachers remain on holiday.”

He added that such staff were required to work even during regular school holidays when teachers are on leave.

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