Responding to the news of yet another mass arrest of migrants, this time in Petaling Jaya Old Town in Selangor, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Interim Executive Director, Preethi Bhardwaj, said:
“Malaysian authorities are once again showing a complete disregard for human rights and public health in this undertaking. The Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) is meant to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead it is systemically being abused as a tool to round up undocumented migrants.”
In 20 May 2020, Immigration Director-General Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud confirmed that an operation was taking place and that approximately 200 migrants had been arrested and detained. The series of raids in recent weeks makes a mockery of his 22 April statement that the Department of Immigration was suspending operations against undocumented migrants during the Movement Control Order (MCO).
“Detainment of people solely for reasons relating to migration is never justifiable except during the most exceptional circumstances, even more so during a global health crisis. If the undocumented migrants living in these areas have been tested and confirmed to be free of COVID-19, there should be no reason for detaining them,” said Bhardwaj.
“Using a pandemic to persecute vulnerable communities is a violation of their right to liberty. We strongly urge the authorities to release those detained immediately. Anyone who may test positive for COVID-19, should have access – free from discrimination – to essential health services, care and safety,” concluded Bhardwaj.
On 20 April, Minister of Defence Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that eight areas in Kuala Lumpur would be placed under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO). The EMCO is expected to end on 23 May.
Under the EMCO, all residents and visitors within the area are forbidden from exiting their homes during the order.
Parts of Petaling Jaya Old Town have been put under enhanced MCO since May 10 after the authorities found 26 Covid-19 positive cases there.
On 1 May, the Masjid Jamek area in Kuala Lumpur was raided, followed by similar action on 15 May in Selayang Baru, and finally, today’s mass arrests in PJ Old Town.