Media Statement

20 April 2022


Responding to media reports of an incident at the Sungai Bakap temporary immigration detention centre that has resulted in the death of six detainees, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia said:

“The government must provide complete transparency and fully investigate the shocking events of this morning, including the desperate circumstances within Sungai Bakap immigration detention centre that led to detainees trying to escape, resulting in the loss of six lives. We also call for an independent investigation by Suhakam to determine what human rights violations have taken place at Sungai Bakap, the temporary immigration detention centre the detainees were from.

The investigation should also determine how many of these temporary immigration detention centres are in existence across the country and if they reflect an untenable system in need of systemic change. Conditions at these immigration detention centres should be documented, given past incidences of human rights violations in immigration depots in Malaysia.

In a statement on 11 April, Suhakam Commissioner Jerald Joseph said Rohingya refugees who arrived in boats in Malaysia in 2020 were being detained indefinitely and had no chance of being released. He also said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not been given access since August 2019 to confirm their refugee status. These refugees must be released from the immigration depot because detention without a chance of release is a violation of human rights.

The traumatising effect of even short periods of time, let alone indefinite detention, are well known. The government therefore needs to answer not only on the deaths of the six individuals but also why so many refugees, including children, are being detained.

We urge the government to review its policy of indefinitely detaining migrants, which is a violation of international human rights law. This unsustainable policy has led to overcrowding in detention centres and now this terrible accident. More tragic events could follow if the government does not address the inhumane conditions at detention centres, revise its policy of detention of individuals for immigration reasons, and grant them freedom of movement pending their asylum applications.”


On 20 April, media reported that six migrants had died in a road accident linked to a pre-dawn escape involving 528 detainees from the Immigration Department’s temporary detention centre in Sungai Bakap, Penang, at 4.30am.

Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said as of 10am this morning 362 of the detainees have been found and taken back into custody.

Penang police chief Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain confirmed that the six individuals from the detention depot—two men, two women, a girl and a boy—had died in an accident along Kilometre 165 Plus Highway Southbound. Authorities are still searching for the remaining detainees.