AS Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin vowed to nab illegal immigrants during lockdown, a veteran unionist criticised the the former for missing the forest for the trees.
“He is not being matured and totally unprofessional. This is not the time to go raid illegal immigrants as we need their cooperation to contain COVID-19.
“Malaysia is in crisis and the Government should look into a ‘cooling off period’ for illegal immigrants. Hamzah can’t even solve domestic problems but he wants to go after foreigners now,” UNI-Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal told FocusM.
Yesterday, Hamzah announced that the Immigration Department would crackdown on illegal immigrants during nationwide lockdown, beginning June 1.
He also said that the initial clampdown on undocumented migrants during MCO 1.0 led to overcrowding of prisons and detention depots.
“But this time we are ready, we have satellite prisons so that when they are arrested, there will be prison cells to put them in. The same goes for the Immigration Department’s satellite depots,” Malaysiakini reported him as saying.
Unimpressed with Hamzah’s bravado, Shafie said the former was only inviting more problems for the country by his statement, adding illegal immigrants would have gone hiding by now.
“And they will mingle with the community around them, increasing the risk of everyone getting infected with COVID-19.
“Hamzah should be using his brain to help during national emergency instead of being arrogant,” Shafie stated.
Overcrowded detention centres “breed” COVID-19
The union leader added that three years ago, the Government said during a Parliamentary session that Malaysia has about six million migrant workers, with four million of them being undocumented.
“Is Hamzah going to deploy the Government’s resources to nab the four million undocumented migrant workers, at a time where the country needs all the help it can get to contain the pandemic?
“I strongly suggest for the Home Minister to deploy enforcement agencies to enforce COVID-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) on the public, irrespective of their social standing,” Shafie added.
On related matter, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) urged the Government to grant undocumented migrants a “home return amnesty programme”, which will allow them to come forward without fear of being detained.
“Detention without trial is a violation of the legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty. It is safe to say a large proportion of those detained are for reasons related to drug use.
“The home drug use needs to be decriminalised so that we can treat them as medical patients rather than criminals,” its central committee member Sharan Raj said.
He also said that locking up undocumented migrants in detention centres will overcrowd the premises, risking COVID-19 infection further.
According to Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Sharan stated that Malaysian prisons are already overcrowded by over 40%, creating an ideal atmosphere for the pandemic to spread.
“Research shows that prisoners are 5.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population. So, the Home Minister’s priorities should be on decongesting prisons, not cramping even more people in them and worsening conditions during a pandemic.
“For starters, Hamzah can reduce the prison population by 80%, as about 25% of prisoners are detainees awaiting trial and 55% are in prison for drug-related reasons,” Sharan remarked. – May 30, 2021.
Photo credit: Utusan Malaysia