Act urgently to stop COVID-19 surge in detention centres

Responding to the news of an alarming 270 cases of COVID-19 at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Depot as announced by the Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on 4 June, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Interim Executive Director, Preethi Bhardwaj said, “Fears about immigration detention centres turning into hotbeds for the spread of COVID-19 have now materialised, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases ever recorded on a single day. Given the shockingly high number of cases in these centres, the government must take immediate steps to slow the spread of the virus to protect the health of migrants and refugees. Many lives are at risk.”

“Priority must be given to finding alternative accommodation that is suitable and where detainees can socially distance. As Dr Noor Hisham said, there is a need to address the cramped cells in these detention centres, which will only encourage further spread of the disease,” said Bhardwaj.

“The government must work to decrease the population of these centres, by ceasing operations against undocumented migrants as promised by Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud in his 22 April statement, and reducing the number of people held in immigration detention,” said Bhardwaj.

“The government has an obligation to protect life and safeguard the health of all people, including those in detention centres,” concluded Bhardwaj.


On 4 June Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that 270 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Depot, making it the largest daily spike since the beginning of the pandemic.

In May, the government conducted at least three large scale raids against undocumented migrants, rounding up hundreds of individuals including young children in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Selayang and PJ Old Town.