Coronavirus: Undocumented migrants are not ‘acceptable casualties’

0
35 views
Photograph: The roads travelled for work - Women Migrant Workers in Singapore and Malaysia by UN Women Gallery/Flickr

Lawyers for Liberty view with grave concern Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s remark yesterday stating the government would not “bow down” to demands to protect migrants’ rights in order to protect Malaysians from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is startling that the government believes that the mass incarceration of undocumented migrants during the movement control order would protect Malaysians from the pandemic.

Any increase in cases will be a burden to our own healthcare system, and the spread of Covid-19, even among migrants in detention centres, may increase the risk of infection to immigration officers, staff and frontline workers who have to deal with those infected.

Further mass detention of migrants would only exacerbate this problem as crowded detention centres would be the perfect setting for a major spike of Covid-19 cases.

Infection amongst migrants in detention centres must not be conceived as an ‘acceptable casualty’ in our fight against the pandemic.

Healthcare is a basic right that should be top priority during these trying times. Treatment could be given without detaining migrants en masse, which would put otherwise healthy migrants at risk of infection. It is the humane thing to do.

The government must acknowledge that many of these undocumented migrants are victims of those exploiting ineffective government policies. They were brought in by domestic private agents to be recruited as migrant workers and only turned ‘illegal’ due to a weakness in the system.

Yet, it is the migrants who are vilified instead of the agents or employers who exploited them. They are the root cause of the problem, and the government must tackle that head on instead of relying on cheap jingoistic rhetoric.

READ MORE:  Undi adalah hak dalam perlembagaan yang tidak boleh dinafikan walaupun dalam pandemik (Malay/English)

We thus urge the government to stop its unwarranted attack on the migrant community. We also strongly urge that undocumented migrants be granted temporary amnesty and that the government ensures that they have necessary access to treatment and healthcare during the pandemic.

Zaid Malek is the coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments