KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Detainees in immigration holding centres at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and elsewhere in Malaysia have shared horrifying tales of alleged abuses while in the hands of immigration officers.
In a report by Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, the detainees described the situation in the immigration detention centres as deplorable and intolerable.
One among the few alleged abuses reported was an incident in Johor Baru captured on a mobile phone, of a Malaysian immigration officer who was seen physically assaulting a foreign national of South Asian descent.
The report also highlighted another case last month, when Singaporean traveller Joshua Lee, who was visiting Malaysia for an e-sports tournament, described on Facebook how he “entered hell” when immigration officers at KLIA detained him because his passport was due to expire in less than six months.
Lee said during his 26-hour detention, he was denied use of his phone and crammed into a foul-smelling cell with more than 100 other detainees.
He claimed in his post — which has been shared 1,500 times — that he witnessed a brutal assault.
According to local human rights group Tenaganita, the incident in which the irritated officer slapped the visitor across the head with his passport before hitting his hands on the counter, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tenaganita executive director Glorene A. Das was reported saying that in Malaysia’s immigration detention centres, abuse is a daily occurrence.
“People denied entry to the country are also deprived of their basic rights, and left defenceless against the whims of the officers in charge,” she was quoted saying.
“Tenaganita, in its work with migrants and refugees, is faced daily with such problems, and has also received and heard cases of abuse, extortion of money, and trafficking of persons while in holding centres/detention camps. The continuous arrest, detention and violent treatment have threatened the lives of thousands.”
Living conditions in the Malaysian camps are grim — overcrowded, unhygienic and brutal, she added.
“Almost all the detainees in the KLIA holding centres and detention centres are charged for being undocumented — an administrative offence with administrative detention. But they are treated worse than criminals with criminal detention,” she claimed.