Apriza Pinandita, Jakarta – Malaysian authorities arrested more than 1,300 undocumented migrants, including 421 Indonesian citizens, in a raid on Monday. Authorities claimed the crackdown was a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It was the second crackdown of the month after a raid on May 2 resulted in the arrest of more than 586 undocumented migrants, The Straits Times reported.
The Malaysian Immigration Department said in a statement on Tuesday that authorities had screened 7,551 migrants at the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market, where the majority of them worked.
"As many as 1,368 undocumented migrants have been detained and brought for documentation purposes to Kuala Lumpur's immigration office," the statement read.
Of the arrested migrants, 421 came from Indonesia, 54 from India, six from Pakistan, 790 from Myanmar and 78 from Bangladesh. The rest were from other nations.
All of them were questioned and those apprehended were a later declared negative for COVID-19 by the Malaysian Health Ministry.
The migrants' offenses allegedly included lacking proper identification, overstaying visas and holding false papers. Under Malaysian immigration laws, the detainees could be deported and banned from reentering Malaysia.
Representatives of the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said they were aware of the situation but could not give further information.
"The Malaysian authorities have not granted the embassy access to the detainees," Agung Cahaya Sumirat, the head of the embassy's information, social and cultural department, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
With 6,779 confirmed cases and 111 deaths as of Thursday, Malaysia has started to ease its movement control order (MCO) – the country's term for a lockdown – but has intensified the tracking of people's movement.
The latest two raids have prompted critics from rights groups and the United Nations to speak up about the risks posed by packed detention centers.
Last week, the United Nations urged Malaysia to avoid detaining migrants and to release all children and their caregivers, Reuters reported.
Yuyun Wahyuningrum, the representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) raised concerns that the raids had caused fears among migrants in Malaysia, especially those who had finished their contracts but were unable to return home because of the MCO.
"These raids have deterred them from coming forward for voluntary testing for COVID-19 because of their fear of detention and deportation," she said in a statement on Wednesday.
While applauding the Malaysian government's effective measures to flatten the curve, Yuyun reiterated calls from AICHR for ASEAN member states to integrate human rights protections into their efforts to tackle COVID-19, especially for those who were vulnerable and marginalized, such as migrant workers and refugees.