Suhakam: Don’t detain undocumented migrants when they come for vaccination

WHILE it welcomed the Government’s decision to offer free vaccination to foreigners in Malaysia, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) urged the former not to penalise undocumented migrants when they come forward.

“While we understand that the authorities have the power to detain those without valid documents, the urgency caused by the pandemic demands that a safe and secure environment must exist in order for all persons to come out voluntarily for vaccination.

“Therefore, Suhakam welcomes the Government’s readiness to work together with various parties, including non-governmental organisations (NGO) towards ensuring an effective immunisation programme for all,” it said, in a statement.

Since last year, several politicians and unionists have called for the Government to offer a temporary amnesty to undocumented migrant workers, so that the latter would come forward to get screened for COVID-19.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairperson Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj and DAP MP Charles Santiago have reminded the Government that it would be difficult to contain the spread of COVID-19 without cooperation from undocumented foreign workers as the disease has spread to their community.

On that note, Suhakam lauded the Government for its decision to provide free vaccines to all, which will include diplomats, expatriates, students, foreign spouses and children, foreign workers and UNHCR card holders.

“This move is in line with the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment as promulgated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their status.

“The right to health contains entitlements which include the right to a system of health protection providing equal opportunity for everyone to access healthcare,” it added.

On related matter, the Malaysia Health Coalition (MHC) also lauded the Government’s decision to provide free vaccines to all.

“This is the correct ethical, public health and economic decision for Malaysia, and necessary to achieve herd immunity and health equity,” it opined.

With that said, MHC urged the Government to go all out to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories being propagated by irresponsible quarters against the vaccines.

The health group said the Government should embark on a mass public education campaign so that the people would understand the basic science behind vaccines and alleviate their genuine concerns.

“Improved health literacy and public awareness will ensure enough people register for the vaccine. The Government must be transparent and inclusive at all times. Therefore, we call for the National COVID-19 Immunisation Plan be released immediately for public scrutiny.

“It is far better to address the rakyat’s concerns and allow opportunities for constructive suggestions for improvement, than to release the plan at the last minute,” MHC stressed. – Feb 15, 2021

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