Vaccination can be done without arresting migrants – Lawyers for freedom | What you think

UNE 5 – We refer to the declaration of the Minister of the Interior of June 3 where he insisted that the government brings together migrants to vaccinate them against Covid-19.

On reading his statement, even if the Minister of the Interior claims that the mass operation consists in having migrants documented for vaccination, there is no guarantee that they would not be subject to punitive or criminal measures by the following. The fear that these migrants will subsequently be sent to detention centers, leading to overcrowding of places of detention, remains a valid concern.

The government has been told repeatedly that the mass incarceration of migrants could in fact undermine efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Similar views have even been echoed by the Malaysian United Nations office to the Home Office, but they have clearly been ignored.

Even though what the Home Secretary has revealed is true and the goal is to ensure vaccination of undocumented migrants, it raises the question of why it would be necessary to detain them in the first place. The point is that it is simply logistically impossible for the government to incarcerate millions of undocumented migrants in detention centers and this could create many clusters of covid-19 that would certainly spill over to the public, creating high rates of infection, hospitalization and death.

A dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh on March 2, 2021. - Photo by Hari Anggara.
A dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh on March 2, 2021. – Photo by Hari Anggara.

It is an indisputable fact that many undocumented migrants fall victim to unscrupulous employers. They should not be treated like criminals and held in detention centers which risk overcrowding them and potentially exposing them to Covid-19 infections.

We must also stress that the mass operation would also have a negative impact on asylum seekers and refugees, who could not be documented. Therefore, they should not be subjected to such degrading treatment from the government and should be treated with the decency they deserve.

The best way for the government is to simply work together with UNHCR, civil societies and grassroots organizations, which have links with the migrant community, to facilitate the immunization process. This would eliminate the need to create satellite detention centers or deploy supervisory authorities to detain undocumented migrants.

We therefore strongly urge the government to reconsider its decision to conduct this mass operation against undocumented migrants. Criminal action is not the panacea for the pandemic, and on the contrary it could have a negative impact on Malaysia’s fight against Covid-19.

* This is the personal opinion of the author or post and does not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian courier.

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Bernice Dyer

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