KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 –Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come out in support of the government’s current policy on illegal immigrants, saying that while measures taken during the Movement Control Order (MCO) were firm, they were fair.
They are of the view that the welfare of the group is protected in the country, and that Malaysia has earned a reputation as a safe haven and paradise, resulting in the influx of illegal immigrants in search of opportunities to earn a living here.
Antrabangsa NGO chairman Datuk Dr Mustapha Ahmad Merican said allegations that Malaysia does not sympathise with the illegal immigrants is incorrect as all these while, the group had been well-treated.
“What the government did during the MCO was the right decision as a COVID-19 cluster involving foreign workers was detected earlier.
“If there was no tight control, the infection could have spread further,” he said referring to the Malaysian authorities’ move in arresting and deporting illegal immigrants.
In fact, he said the government had allocated a huge amount of money to cover the costs of taking care of those detained, which included food, shelter, health care and screening during the MCO.
“So, there is no issue of us ill-treating the illegals. Some other countries will have them detained and on top of that, they need to pay fines for the duration of their stay in the country. Our country doesn’t do that. Instead, they are taken care of while they are here, ”he told Bernama.
In the meantime, he said the government needs to be firm when it comes to repatriation of the illegal immigrants and as for refugees, added that the United Nations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should take measures to guarantee their safety when they are sent home.
“This is to prevent incidents of them getting killed when they are back home, so, we have to ensure their safety as well, we have to be civil here,” he said adding that international media should be more cautious in making statements that could lead to misunderstandings.
Al Jazeera in its 20.25-minute documentary report, ‘Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown’, today criticised Malaysia in its handling of illegal immigrants during the MCO enforced to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commenting on the report, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the allegations were baseless as Malaysia implemented the MCO in efforts to protect the public, regardless whether they were citizens or non-citizens.
“The Al Jazeera report is a false accusation. Protection of citizens or non-citizens is an action under Act 342 (Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act 1988) to address the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
NGO Malaysia Action Council (MYNAC) president Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah said as a country with an open policy, Malaysia had been accepting immigrants and foreign workers without any discrimination.
He is also confident that all measures taken by the government are in line with current laws and requirements, especially in addressing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We (Malaysia) also have the right to make any arrest if they come in illegally.
“Even though they are detained, we still treat them well, we serve them food while they are in detention and we also have to bear huge expenses,” he said.
Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob earlier said that the government would not bow down to demands by human rights groups claiming that the detention of the illegal immigrants was a discriminatory action.
He said as the group entered the country illegally, therefore they should be subject to legal action.