No sincere offer of amnesty was ever given to migrants

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Lawyers for Liberty refer to the puzzling statement made by Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on 31 May 2020, where he stated the offer of amnesty for undocumented immigrants to come forward and get tested for COVID-19 has ended.

We strongly question whether the offer for amnesty was even sincere when the authorities continue to conduct raids and detain migrants during the movement control order even after it said amnesty was purportedly announced.

In fact, despite being heavily criticised by human rights groups and Suhakam on the rationale of rounding up migrants during a health crisis, they stubbornly insist that they have a right to detain undocumented migrants and cannot allow them to ‘roam free’, with no reference to any supposed amnesty.

It is obvious that the senior minister is contradicting himself. The whole point of offering amnesty is to encourage and incentivise undocumented migrants to cooperate with the authorities.

Since raids and detentions continue despite the offer for amnesty, of course no migrants would voluntarily come out to get tested for Covid-19, as they cannot trust the authorities to not arrest them if they do come forward.

The authorities have failed to show any goodwill in their so-called amnesty offer. The migrants are not to blame here.

If the government is truly serious in getting the cooperation of migrants during this pandemic, it must halt all raids and arrests immediately until the Covid-19 pandemic has been resolved and ensure migrants can come forward to be tested and treated without repercussions.

Zaid Malek is coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty

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