KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today criticised allegations by some non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders who accused the Malaysian government of treating illegal immigrants inhumanely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ismail Sabri said that the government treated illegal immigrants the same as those foreign immigrants with valid travel and work documents, despite knowing that the former has no right to stay in the country.
“Those who are detained for not possessing valid travel and work documents will be sent to immigration depots. We provide them with food there and we spent millions setting up three hospitals to treat those who have contracted the Covid-19 virus.
“Other countries treat illegal immigrants worse; we are far better. Therefore, there is no need for politicians or NGO leaders to take advantage of this situation and become a hero for the illegal immigrants,” he told a press conference this afternoon.
Ismail Sabri said this when asked to comment on allegations made by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) during an interview broadcast “live” on Astro Awani this morning.
In response, he pointed out that foreign immigrants with valid documents are rightfully protected and enjoy all the benefits under the sectors which they are in.
“For example, those working in the agriculture sector were given houses to stay. And when there were Covid-19 cases among the immigrants in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, they were immediately sent to do swab tests.
“Some of the immigrant workers are also entitled to the benefit under the Social Security Organisation. We follow International Labour Organisation guidelines and international laws when handling them,” he said.
Ismail Sabri also said that the government did not ignore the illegal immigrants during the Covid-19 outbreak as they set up three hospitals with a bed capacity of more than 2,000 to treat them.
“When there were positive cases at the immigration depot, we conducted tests on all the illegal immigrants and we are ready to cope even if the cases increase from the cluster,” he said.
He also said that the authorities had to detain illegal immigrants in areas under an enhanced control movement order (EMCO) such as at Malayan Mansion in Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur as they have no business in the country.
“After the EMCO was lifted in those areas, the authorities had to arrest them and send them to their own country. If the Immigration Department did not arrest them, then they are violating the country’s laws.
“Their status will remain as illegal immigrants as they don’t have any valid documents. That’s why we discussed sending them back home with their origin country, and that is why they were taken to the immigration depot. We don’t even want to jail them,” he said.
“So if someone wants to accuse the government of treating immigrants inhumanely, it is not right,” he added.