Responding to the news that Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Malaysia will be deported following his appearance on the Al-Jazeera documentary “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” Preethi Bhardwaj, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia said:
“The Malaysian government is clearly using immigration law and threats of deportation to silence criticism of their mistreatment of undocumented migrants and refugees. It is shocking that these already marginalised communities are criminalised and punished for speaking up about the experiences they face.”
Rayhan Kabir was arrested on 24 July following a two-week manhunt, after the Immigration Department issued a wanted notice against him. In addition to having his work permit revoked and the impending deportation, he has been blacklisted from ever entering Malaysia again.
“These events set a chilling precedent for the limits on freedom of expression for everyone in Malaysia. Nobody should have to fear reprisal for expressing an opinion, and in Rayhan Kabir’s case, simply for recounting what he witnessed. Authorities must ensure that the right to freedom of expression can be enjoyed by all, regardless of race and nationality. We urge the government reverse its decision to revoke Rayhan Kabir’s work permit and deport him.” said Bhardwaj.
“Rayhan Kabir’s testimony only serves to shine more light on the terrible treatment of undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia, especially in recent times. We call on the government to end its crackdown on migrant workers and release those detained in immigration detention centres. The government must coordinate across ministries, agencies and civil society organisations to formulate suitable policies to address the issue of undocumented workers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, that are in line with international law and standards” concluded Bhardwaj.
On 3 July 2020, Al Jazeera released the documentary, “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” that documented the mistreatment of migrant workers by Malaysian authorities under the movement control order implemented to respond to COVID-19.
It detailed how Malaysian authorities, namely the Immigration Department and police, conducted raids in areas that were heavily occupied by migrant and refugee communities. Following these raids, those arrested were taken to immigration detention centres that are well known to be cramped, unsanitary, and poorly maintained. Some detention centres saw spikes in cases of infection of COVID-19.
Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, a migrant worker himself, featured in the documentary, expressing concern about the government’s actions. Apart from his arrest, Al-Jazeera staff involved in the making of the documentary have been questioned by police authorities for possible defamation, sedition, and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).