Senior minister: Illegal immigrant roundup in Masjid India above board, nothing ‘cruel’ about it

Health workers test foreign workers for Covid-19 at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2020. Yesterday, it was reported that authorities had rounded up several hundred immigrants in the vicinity of Masjid India. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Health workers test foreign workers for Covid-19 at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2020. Yesterday, it was reported that authorities had rounded up several hundred immigrants in the vicinity of Masjid India. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — The 586 illegal immigrants detained in a raid on an emergency movement control order (EMCO) area in Kuala Lumpur yesterday have all tested negative for Covid-19 and are now at Immigration depots due to their illegal status.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the authorities had not acted beyond their powers nor did they endanger their own health, as claimed by some quarters yesterday, during what he termed a standard operation.

“I want to say that the PATI were undergoing mandatory quarantine inside the EMCO area which we had locked down. We conducted swab tests and the results were negative,” he said, using the Malay acronym for illegal immigrants.

“When the EMCO is over and they are freed, their status will remain unchanged, they are still PATI.

“The laws regarding PATI are unchanged.”

Yesterday, the media and human rights groups reported that Malaysian authorities had rounded up several hundred immigrants at Menara City One, Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion in the vicinity of Masjid India, which was placed under the EMCO earlier last month following a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

A number of NGOs, activists and netizens, including Tenaganita, had slammed the raid, calling it “cruel and inhumane”. 

However, Ismail Sabri denied such claims, saying that the welfare of the illegal immigrants is guaranteed by the government even after their detention.

“Saying we are acting cruelly is incorrect because during the EMCO, they received the same food as our people even though the food was provided by NGOs.

“They also received food in the depot. So it is incorrect to say we acted cruelly because they were cared for during the EMCO. Even at the depot, they will be well taken care of,” he said.

Ismail Sabri also said detractors should thank the government for making sure the group is Covid-19 negative.

“Those who slammed the government should be thanking the government because they have been swab tested and received a clean bill of health.

“(If not), imagine when they return home (or) are sent back to their countries, of course they will carry the illness, carry Covid-19 and spread it to their families,” he said.

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