Tenaganita condemns mass raids on migrants, refugees, including minors, during Ramadan

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In response to the ongoing mass raids of migrants and refugees taking place today across various locations in Kuala Lumpur, Tenaganita strongly denounces these operations as inhumane and cruel.

While it is understandable that measures are necessary to curb future Covid-19 outbreaks, to target and detain these individuals during this time, which proves to be just as challenging to these communities as others, is unwarranted and is not the only solution available.

The Malaysian government should not take such a simplistic approach, to think that an authoritative stance is the most ideal response.

While Tenaganita acknowledges the presence of millions of undocumented persons in Malaysia as an issue which needs to be addressed, a more comprehensive approach is required in a more transparent manner, to tackle the issue effectively.

This would require efforts beyond just among government agencies and ministries, involving stakeholders and experts who could provide the necessary insights and resources to create a truly holistic effort – but this is not the time to do so when we have a serious pandemic that threatens our lives.

The issue of a growing population of undocumented persons in Malaysia, according to the government, has caused a great concern among the public.

In the same regard, we believe that it is just as much of a great concern to the public that there are individuals who are abusing our laws and system to profit over others, some of whom abuse their authority and power – all of which helps in creating this issue in the first place.

Noting that those being arrested include many from Muslim communities currently observing the holy month of Ramadan, to proceed with these mass crackdowns is a ruthless act in principle. Beyond this, what is more abominable is the arrest of minors during these operations, with reports of some as young as one year old.

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Tenaganita questions the intentions and values of the Malaysian government, which is currently disregarding the basic human rights of every individual, regardless of their documentation status.

This will become a stain on our nation’s morality and integrity, based on the value we are currently placing on the right to a life of dignity for all – and, further to that, pose additional risks to our country’s public health.

By proceeding with this heinous act against humanity during a time of so much uncertainty and struggle for everyone, the government may be left with further repercussions which it may not have considered thoroughly.

With reports of these raids spreading, more fear will be stirred among communities of migrants and refugees, deterring them from coming forward to be tested for Covid-19 and to seek further treatment; regressing the efforts by the Ministry of Health to curb the virus.

This merciless action clearly breaks the promise and assurance of no ramifications for undocumented foreigners who are coming for the test, screening and contact tracing, and the government will irresponsibly put all 30 million Malaysians at risk.

In reference to a statement released yesterday, Tenaganita wonders if this would also apply to the thousands of migrant workers who have paid millions of ringgit to the Ministry of Home Affairs during its “Rehiring Programme”.

Till today, the government (though the governments have changed, but the same individuals are the leaders today) refuses to be accountable for the failure of the programme and for losses suffered by the migrant workers.

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According to the reports of migrant workers who have sought the assistance of Tenaganita, the whole Rehiring Programme was riddled with inefficiency and corruption.

As a result, about half a million migrant workers have become victims of what can only be described as a government-sponsored scam to make money from the migrant workers. Not only did they lose their money and passports, they remain undocumented due to no fault of their own – and they continue to be detained, charged in court, and deported.

Many of those who have been arrested and detained have come into the country legally, but then are illegals, and treated as criminals under the Immigration Act for an administration offences, which we are very well known for. And let’s once again bear in mind that no human being can be ‘illegal’.

We just hope that Malaysians and others come forward to push the government to put a stop to this inhumane and cruel act during this pandemic, as we should be saving and improving lives – not destroying and traumatising lives through these arrests and detention.

Glorene Das is executive director of Tenaganita (Women’s Force)

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