Last Updated on Aug. 6, 2018, 4:42 p.m.
BY LOW HAN SHAUN
A HUMAN rights group is demanding access to Immigration Department detention centres, to ensure those picked up in a recent crackdown on illegal immigrants are not abused.
Tenaganita executive director Glorene A. Das said the mass arrests, which started last month, have brought to public attention the centres’ deplorable conditions.
“Give us access to the detention centres, (so that we can) assess and monitor, and make recommendations to improve them,” she told The Malaysian Insight.
She said the centres were compared with “Nazi detention camps” in articles on human rights, saying overcrowding had resulted in “horrifying” living conditions for detainees.
“They (detainees who have been released) tell me that the detention centres were overcrowded. Are the conditions going to improve? Absolutely not. They will get worse.
“We need to know who is monitoring them,” said Das, adding that Tenaganita does not have access to the detainees.
She said undercover Tenaganita members at the centres found that detainees would “simply go missing”.
“One day you see them, the next day you don’t.”
She said other detainees, fearing that they would get beaten, would not question Immigration officers about the disappearances.
She said officers would order detainees of one race to beat up those of other races.
“The officers won’t get arrested because the Malaysian perspective is that, the foreign worker is always the criminal.”
Das said Immigration officers demand a payment of between RM50 and RM200 for each visit the detainees received.
Detainees previously paid RM50 to make a five-minute phone call, but the rate has shot up to RM300 following the crackdown.
Data compiled by Tenaganita shows a month-to-month increase in arrests by the Immigration Department since the start of this year, compared with last year.
“In May 2015, there were 12,500 detainees. At the end of 2016, there were 1,199. Last year, 769 were detained. Until June this year, there were already 567 detainees,” said Das.
“I don’t care if this is (due to) the Barisan Nasional government, which had always been in denial, or the Pakatan Harapan government, for whom migrant workers and refugees are not part of the agenda at all.
“It is supposed to be about decreasing reliance on migrant workers.”
She said more parties, such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), need to be informed of detainees’ situation.
“Camps and holding centres must be open for immediate inspection by independent groups, like Suhakam, the Bar Council and relevant civil society organisations.
“There is a need for an established monitoring mechanism, also, an (independent) avenue for workers, refugees and groups to report (abuses) by (errant) police and Immigration officers.”
On the Nepali government banning its citizens from working in Malaysia, Das said it is good that the country is taking steps to protect its people from abuse and exploitation.
“Good. I’m actually very, very happy that the Nepali government has banned (its workers from coming to Malaysia). I hope other governments will have moratoriums, too.
“This is because source countries have become beggars. They agree to the most minimum standards for their workers.”
She said in many cases, governments would take action only after workers have fallen victim, citing Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia.
“Why do we wait till someone dies?” – August 5, 2018.
Low Han Shaun
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