‘We’re treated like animals’: Filipino refugees reveal sordid condition in Immigration Dept detention

Philippines civil society Migrante International described the ordeal of some of the women detained by the Malaysian Immigration Department that have now been deported — involving alleged frequent routine inspections, unhygienic food, and cramped living spaces. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Philippines civil society Migrante International described the ordeal of some of the women detained by the Malaysian Immigration Department that have now been deported — involving alleged frequent routine inspections, unhygienic food, and cramped living spaces. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — A group of refugees from the Philippines, whose babies were detained for nearly three weeks by the Immigration Department, have accused Malaysian authorities of treating them “like animals”.

In a statement, Philippines civil society Migrante International (MI) described the ordeal of some of the women that have now been deported — involving alleged frequent routine inspections, unhygienic food, and cramped living spaces.

“Ralyn (not her real name) can never forget how ‘muster’ or routine inspections every 5 minutes from 7am to 12 midnight were led by barking detention wardens and spiteful immigration officers.

“Detainees were fed with ‘stale and burnt food good for swines’,” MI said, adding the cells they were kept in can best be described as cramped and filthy.

“Our rights as humans were violated! The female wardens acted as if they are not mothers themselves. They were vile and mean, treated us like animals. All the children always get terrified when they’re around,” Ralyn was quoted saying in the statement.

The group claimed that children were not spared from verbal abuse by growling wardens and immigration officers, and many of the young detainees were allegedly in need of medical attention.

It said the detainees were made to lie down on the cold floor surface and nobody was allowed to use any sleeping mats. Even scraps of cardboard which they used to fan themselves and cover the floor get confiscated.

“Immigration detainees had only one set of clothes which they had to wash and wear every other day. Those who got some cash to spare were able to purchase low quality clothes sold inside the facility,” MI said.

One woman who wanted to be known as Enny said they wore the same clothes that we had been wearing on the night we were arrested. 

Even then, they still had to choose conserving the little money on them so they could buy bottled waters, or risk getting dehydrated by extreme heat and thirst, she said.

Another woman who went by the name of Anita said almost all of the detainees are from developing countries, including neighbours Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

She said in one instance, a female detainee from Kenya, showed signs of psychosis, and as a result was tied to the wall with both hands and made to stand the whole day.

The group of refugees were deported from Malaysia sometime yesterday, and arrived at Terminal 1 in Manila Airport around 9.40pm. With nearly all their possessions confiscated by the Malaysian immigration authorities, they only managed to carry with them small shoulder bags. 

They also expressed their gratitude to local human rights NGO Tenaganita for assisting their release from detention by the Malaysian authorities.

Tenaganita had worked in close co-operation with its MI, in attempting to free the group of mostly women with four children from confinement at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre.

Malay Mail is currently seeking comments from the Immigration Department over the allegations.

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