KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today accused Al Jazeera’s documentary on discrimination against undocumented migrants as being done with malicious intent as he slammed the blind accusations hurled against the country.
The defence minister also claimed that the accusations of wrongful detainment of illegal migrants during the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) were false, and demanded for the Qatar-based channel to apologise to Malaysians.
“This is because it was not just illegal migrants that were detained but locals too during the EMCO. And it was not just Selangor Mansion but several other tahfiz schools and villages in Hulu Langat (under the EMCO). That is our policy to ensure the infection is isolated.
“This is to ensure that no individuals could enter the area in order to save them from getting infected. Moreover, every individual under the EMCO is screened, this also includes illegal migrants.
“The government bore the screening expenses. So it is wrong to say they were treated unfairly during the lockdown because the standard operating procedures (SOP) applied to anyone,” he said during a press conference.
The Qatar-based news broadcast drew attention to the detention of migrants caught in Covid-19 red zones around Kuala Lumpur when the country was under a partial lockdown, which eventually led to clusters of outbreaks in detention depots.
Al Jazeera’s “101 East” segment titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” on July 3 highlighted criticism by human rights groups who accused the immigration authorities of serious violations when it conducted raids in red zones.
In response, Ismail challenged Al Jazeera to list the name of countries in the world which gave “absolute freedom” to undocumented and illegal migrants.
“As far as the answer goes, it is none to my knowledge. Maybe Al Jazeera has the list of countries, by all means please,” he said.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Adham Baba had also yesterday said the allegation was baseless as Malaysia introduced MCO to save everybody from Covid-19, regardless of whether the person is a citizen or not.
Among others, Ismail Sabri said the report’s accusation of the government’s enforcement actions against foreigners being racially-charged was also untrue.
“What was enforced is based on the law. The government accorded the same treatment to all foreigners including those with official documentation and those without.
“Those with official documentations were screened and treated in hospital whereas those without documents were detained in immigration detention centres and also screened.
“We don't abandon them and let them get infected and die. Those testing positive are treated at the Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centre at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang until they fully recover before sending them back to the detention centre.
“Like I said, whether they recover or not, it does not change the fact that they are still undocumented migrants. Even if they tested negative, that does not mean we will give them free rein of the country,” he said, adding that those who are undocumented will be treated as such and thus cannot be equated to those who earned an honest living.
He also accused Al Jazeera of fabricating lies in regards to children handcuffed as they were led to their respective detention centres, stressing that children were not handcuffed.
“This is a blatant lie. I believe the said reporter was not ethical in their reporting of the article. I would like to stress these children were also kept in separation from the general populace (detainees) together with their parents in a special area in the detention centres.
“This is the true facts but I believe Al Jazeera wished not to find out the truth and based on their malicious intent, reported inaccurate matters,” he said.
No government officials have responded to the requests for interviews, including Ismail and Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin and their deputies, according to Al Jazeera.
The documentary, aired on July 3, has since prompted backlash from Malaysians on social media.