Six people, including two children, were killed trying to cross a highway after hundreds fled a detention center amid riots.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the deaths of six Rohingya, including two children, who died on Wednesday during a flight from a refugee camp. temporary immigration detention center in northern Malaysia.
This group is among the 528 Rohingya people who fled the facility in the early hours of Wednesday morning after authorities deemed it a riot.
UNHCR, which has an office in Kuala Lumpur, said in a statement late Thursday that it was also concerned about the incident that led to the absconding.
Tens of thousands of the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim minority who have long been persecuted in Myanmar, have sought safety in Malaysia by making dangerous boat trips to the country after brutal crackdown by the army in 2017 that is now the subject of a case of international genocide.
The UN refugee agency said it did not have any information regarding the case or the individuals involved, and revealed that it had not been authorized to access any immigration detention centres. resident in Malaysia as of August 2019.
“This has unfortunately prevented UNHCR from meeting worrisome detainees to identify those in need of international protection and campaign for their release,” the statement said, noting that there are “disturbing detainees, including vulnerable individuals, demand our attention” at immigration detention centers across Malaysia.
It said it was ready to work with the Malaysian government on alternatives to detention, especially for children and the elderly.
“Depriving individuals of their liberty to prevent others from entering the country is illegal, inhumane and ineffective,” the statement said. “Asylum is not an illegal act. In all cases, detention must be a measure of last resort, must be permitted by law and be exercised only if necessary and reasonable in all circumstances, and commensurate with a legitimate purpose. ”
Six people were killed when they tried to cross the North-South Expressway, the main road connecting northern Malaysia with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The immigration department said most of the group were redeployed a few hours after they escaped, but police are still searching for nearly 100 people who are still free.
Malaysian Interior Minister Hamzah Zainudin told local media on Wednesday that about 664 people were at the center at the time of the disturbance, 137 of whom were children. The Rohingya arrived by sea in 2020 and were transferred from the resort island of Langkawi, he added.
“Because there were so many people confined in a cramped space, things got out of control and the detainees took the opportunity to flare up,” Hamzah said.
According to the United Nations, about 181,000 people in Malaysia are officially registered as refugees and asylum seekers, and about 57% of them are Rohingya. Like many countries in the region, Malaysia does not recognize the United Nations Refugee Convention and those caught undocumented are considered “illegal” migrants.
“Even before the incident, many of these refugees had experienced severe psychological trauma, after escaping the genocide against them in Myanmar,” said Tun Khin, president of the Foundation. Myanmar’s Rohingya organization in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “Malaysian authorities must not only treat them with kindness, but also thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident.”