Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has defended the Immigration Department’s raids against undocumented migrants amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Ramadan, saying the operations are part of an ongoing effort.
The defence minister claimed the controversial raids are not merely done during the movement control order (MCO) period and pointed to other countries that also undertake such moves against those who entered the country through unsanctioned means.
“This Ops Pati is an operation that is continuous, not just during the MCO. Even before the MCO, there were Ops Pati done by the Immigration Department,” he said in his daily briefing, using the Malay acronym for “illegal immigrants”.
“Last time, during MCO 1, 2, 3, and now it CMCO, and Ops Pati still continues, and I believe that after the MCO ends, Ops Pati would still continue.
“So, this operation has nothing to do with MCO 1,2,3 or even the CMCO. So, this is normal,” he added.
Ismail also lashed out at critics of Malaysia’s heavy-handed actions against undocumented migrants, comparing it to other countries’ laws on border control.
He said that Malaysia has clear laws on “illegal immigrants”, and the authorities were merely following the laws set in place.
Yesterday, the Immigration Department, police and Health Ministry officials conducted a raid on undocumented migrants in the Selayang wholesale market, claiming it was done to test them for Covid-19.
It was reported that Director-General of Immigration Khairul Dzaimee Daud said 7,551 foreigners were screened for coronavirus during the raid that began 6.30am.
“We detained 790 Myanmars, 421 Indonesians, 78 Bangladeshis, 54 Indian nationals, six Pakistanis and some others of various nationalities,” he was quoted as saying.
All the detainees tested negative for Covid-19, he said.
The detainees were 1,009 men, 261 women and 98 children.
He said among the offences they had committed were overstaying and possession of forged passports and identification cards.
Media reports showed that the press was stopped by authorities from documenting the raid using photographs or videos.
Previously, the media and human rights groups reported that Malaysian authorities had rounded up several hundred immigrants at Menara City One, Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion in the vicinity of Masjid India which was placed under the EMCO earlier last month, following a cluster of Covid-19 cases.
A number of NGOs, activists and netizens, including Tenaganita, had slammed the raid, calling it “cruel and inhumane”.
Last month, Ismail also said the government will place all detained migrants identified in areas under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) at immigration detention centres after the order is lifted.
He said they may also be sent to the 11 special prisons gazetted by the Home Ministry if the need arises.
The government has been criticised for conducting the raids, as it had promised in the early stages of the MCO, which took effect on March 18, not to arrest illegals, and would instead encourage them to come forward for Covid-19 testing.