Posted on May 2, 2020

Malaysia Detains Hundreds of Refugees and Migrants During Virus Lockdown: Rights Groups

Rozanna Latiff and A. Ananthalakshmi, Reuters, May 1, 2020

Malaysia on Friday detained hundreds of refugees and migrant workers for illegally living in the country, rights groups said, at a time of movement and travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

There has been growing public anger in recent days over the presence of migrant foreigners with some in Malaysia accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and being a burden on government resources.

Malaysia has around 2 million registered foreign workers but authorities estimate many more are living in the Southeast Asian country without proper documents. Malaysia does not formally recognise refugees, regarding them as illegal migrants.

The arrests followed immigration raids in a neighbourhood in capital Kuala Lumpur where thousands of migrant workers and refugees live, according to human rights groups and photos shared on social media.

Human Rights Watch and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said over 700 migrants were taken into custody including young children. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were among those detained, other rights groups said.


The neighbourhood where the raids took place was close to an area with three buildings that had been placed under strict lockdowns last month after a surge in coronavirus cases there.


Photos shared on social media showed dozens of migrant workers lined up in close quarters as authorities watched from the sidewalk. {snip}

Other photos seen by Reuters showed dozens of migrants packed in trucks that typically carry illegal foreign nationals to immigration detention centres, which are known to be cramped and unhygienic.