The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) urged the government to treat migrant workers more humanely in its efforts to curb the Covid-19 pandemic even if they are undocumented.
Its president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy condemned the strong-arm raid of undocumented migrants in Cyberjaya, Selangor last Monday, saying such methods will prompt the community to flee and hide from the authorities, complicating efforts to curb Covid-19.
“MMA strongly condemns the Immigration Department’s inhumane treatment of undocumented migrants during the raid. We are shocked at the way fellow human beings were treated by the agency’s officers,” he said in a statement.
Dr Subramaniam also questioned spraying Dettol directly on the rounded-up migrants, saying it is not part of the standard operating procedures from the National Security Council or the Health Ministry.
“These are the types of incidents that have led to migrants not trusting the authorities. This trust deficit needs to be addressed.
“The usual practice of ‘raid and detain’ must stop and better ways should be sought to tackle the problem of undocumented migrants. More raids will result in more detention centre clusters as we have repeatedly seen,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam urged the federal government to engage with NGOs in reaching out to the undocumented migrants, so that assurances can be given that they will be helped and not harmed.
“Undocumented migrants are one of the most important groups to vaccinate. If half of the Malaysians in the country have yet to register for the vaccine, imagine the enormous challenge it will be to get the two to three million undocumented migrant workers vaccinated.
“We may not achieve herd immunity if we fail in our efforts to vaccinate our significantly high migrant worker population,” he said, adding that to get both documented and undocumented migrant workers to cooperate, the authorities need to first start treating them like human beings.
The Monday night operation was conducted by 162 officers from multiple government agencies including the police, the Immigration Department, National Registration Department, the Peninsular Malaysia Labour Department and the Civil Defence Force.
A total of 202 immigrants were rounded up; 46 had legal documents for their stay in the country and were released.
Of the 156 detained for further checks, 42 are from Indonesia, 62 from Bangladesh, 20 from Nepal, 29 from Myanmar, and one from India and Pakistan respectively. They include 144 men and 12 women aged 23 to 50.
The arrested migrants were taken to the Immigration Department’s headquarters in Putrajaya for Covid-19 screening and for further investigations. If found guilty, they will be detained at the temporary detention centre in Semenyih, Selangor before being deported back to their respective home countries. – MMO