After criticism following mistreatment of migrants, home minister says Putrajaya merely ‘doing what the people want’

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
·2-min read
Illegal immigrants are detained by the Immigration Department following raids in Selayang Baru, Kuala Lumpur May 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Illegal immigrants are detained by the Immigration Department following raids in Selayang Baru, Kuala Lumpur May 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — The Perikatan Nasional government continued to deflect criticism over its alleged mistreatment of migrants today, despite the growing uproar that followed Al Jazeera’s recently aired documentary highlighting the issue.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin dismissed the documentary when pressed on the matter earlier today, reiterating that the authorities were merely acting on the public’s “wish”, Malaysiakini reported.

“This government is siding with the people’s wish. They wish to see everyone in this country living according to our laws,” Hamzah was quoted as saying.

“If they want to work here, they must have a permit and valid documents.”

The Qatar-based news broadcast drew attention to the detention of migrants caught in Covid-19 red zones around Kuala Lumpur when the country was under a partial lockdown, which eventually led to clusters of outbreaks in detention depots.

Al Jazeera’s ”101 East” segment titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” highlighted criticism by human rights groups who accused the immigration authorities of serious violations when it conducted raids in red zones.

The PN government has justified the operations, saying the raids were intended to snatch migrants who entered the country illegally. But critics claimed many with proper travel documents were also unlawfully picked up.

Hamzah, however, had reportedly described the allegation as the work of foreign media who like “to twist stories.”

“So although the foreign media claims that we are harsh and strict, I feel that is what the people want. The people need a government that acts against those who break the law,” he was quoted as saying.

“So we don’t need to bother about foreign media that like to twist stories.”

No government officials have responded to the requests for interviews, including Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Hamzah and their deputies, according to Al Jazeera.

The documentary, aired on July 3, has since prompted backlash from Malaysians on social media.

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