GEORGE TOWN: An activist for migrant rights has called for royal intervention to ensure that undocumented migrants are not detained in the next six months, so that the national immunisation campaign against Covid-19 can succeed.
The activist, Adrian Pereira, said a six-month moratorium would ensure that undocumented workers come out to be vaccinated without fear of being prosecuted, thus ensuring the completion of the national vaccination drive.
Pereira said the road to herd immunity could only be achieved if the foreigners came out without fear. He said those calling for migrants to be placed in the last tier or even among the 20% unvaccinated group were wrong in their approach.
“The latest ‘arrest-all’ directive actually puts Malaysians at greater risk,” he said, because enforcement and detention officers are exposed to the migrants, and this could worsen the country’s Covid-19 numbers.
“Haven’t we learnt from the clusters from detention centres? Besides, we would only be sending them further into hiding,” he said.
Last Thursday, home minister Hamzah Zainudin said undocumented migrants would not be eligible for Covid-19 vaccines as they were considered illegals.
Defending the immigration department’s pledge to round them up, he told Bernama: “If they are not detained, will they go out to get vaccinated? That is why they are detained and we will investigate whether they have employers or not.”
Lawyer Andrew Khoo said mass detentions would only make things worse as prisons and other detention centres would face a crowding problem.
He said that even if these migrants are placed at different facilities, it was as good as transferring the possible outbreaks from one place to another.
“It is an extremely unwise thing to do. Mass arrests and detentions at this time also fly in the face of the science,” he said.
Khoo said the home minister’s statement “showed a lapse of logic”, signifying a U-turn on an earlier plan to vaccinate all foreigners, regardless of their legal status in Malaysia.