Under fire, Putrajaya says raids against undocumented migrants started before MCO, and will continue afterwards

File picture of undocumented migrants who were arrested in an immigration bust are seen at the Sessions Court in Teluk Intan January 2, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib
File picture of undocumented migrants who were arrested in an immigration bust are seen at the Sessions Court in Teluk Intan January 2, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has defended the Immigration Department’s raids against undocumented migrants amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Ramadan, saying the operations are part of an ongoing effort.

The defence minister claimed the controversial raids are not merely done during the movement control order (MCO) period, and pointed to other countries that also undertake such moves against those who entered the country through unsanctioned means.

“This Ops Pati is an operation that is continuous, not just during the MCO. Even before the MCO, there were Ops Pati done by the Immigration Department,” he said in his daily briefing, using the Malay acronym for “illegal immigrants”.

“Last time, during MCO 1, 2, 3, and now it CMCO, and Ops Pati still continues, and I believe that after the MCO ends, Ops Pati would still continue.

“So this operation has nothing to do with MCO 1,2,3 or even the CMCO. So this is normal,” he added.

Ismail also lashed out at critics of Malaysia’s heavy-handed actions against undocumented migrants, comparing it to other countries’ laws on border control.

He said that Malaysia has clear laws on “illegal immigrants”, and the authorities were merely following the laws set in place.

Yesterday, the Immigration Department, police and Health Ministry officials conducted a raid on undocumented migrants in the Selayang wholesale market, claiming it was done to test them for Covid-19.

Media reports showed that the press was stopped by authorities from documenting the raid using photographs or videos.

The Immigration Department said yesterday 7,551 foreigners were checked, following which 1,368 undocumented migrants including those from Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan were detained.

Out of those, 98 were children.

Previously, 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”.

Last month, Ismail also said the government will place all detained migrants identified in areas under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) at immigration detention centres after the order is lifted.

He said they may also be sent to the 11 special prisons gazetted by the Home Ministry if the need arises.

This was despite Putrajaya’s previous assurance that refugees and migrants do not need to worry about their status to come forward and get tested for Covid-19.

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