KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah reiterated today that the government did not discriminate against undocumented migrants in its effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
Following an uproar over the alleged mistreatment of foreign nationals by Malaysia as claimed by international news agency Al Jazeera, Dr Noor Hisham explained there was no discrimination when an area is declared under an enhanced movement control order (EMCO).
“There is no discrimination when we enforce the EMCO because when we come down to an area, whoever you are local, foreign, illegal, legal all will be tested.
“Then the undocumented migrants will be managed by the Immigration Department to be put in a detention centre and the most importantly is for us to make sure they are negative and deport them as soon as possible,” he said during a press conference here.
He also pointed out that migrants — undocumented or documented — were also sent to hospitals such as the temporary quarantine centre at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park (MAEPS) in Serdang for medical treatment should they test positive for Covid-19.
He asserted that undocumented migrants, despite being detained by immigration authorities, were afforded Covid-19 screening tests like their documented peers and were also isolated from the general populace for treatment should they test positive.
Citing the spike in recorded cases on June 4 whereby 277 new Covid-19 cases were reported involving 271 non-Malaysians detained at several immigration detention centres in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, Dr Noor Hisham said it was fortunate that the outbreak was contained within.
“Can you imagine 277 (cases) in the community rather than the detention centres. Today in the centres, we have already managed to control the spread but if it’s in the community, that 277 would have spread to other people.
“So this is the reason why I think containment is important for us to test those positive and treat them equally in our hospital, in terms of feeding them, giving free testing and quarantine for the 14 days in MAEPS.
“The government spent millions to build a temporary hospital to treat patients in the centre. So I think this is the initiative we have done and we have been fair,” he added.
Al Jazeera drew attention to the detention of migrants caught in Covid-19 red zones around Kuala Lumpur when the country was under the movement control order (MCO), which eventually led to clusters of outbreaks in detention depots.
On July 3, Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera released a 25.50-minute-long documentary titled Locked up in Malaysia’s lockdown regarding undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia.
The documentary had claimed Malaysia was discriminating against undocumented migrants in its Covid-19 prevention efforts, and supported this premise by quoting several apparently disgruntled foreign nationals staying here who condemned on camera the treatment they were purportedly afforded by the authorities.