Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Indonesian workers ‘treated like animals’ in Sabah detention centres, report says

Even food and money sent by family members is often confiscated by immigration officers.

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Details of horrific conditions endured by workers detained at immigration centres in Sabah have emerged in a report by an Indonesian group describing, among others, inhumane treatment, blackmail, confiscation of personal property and a lack of medical care.

The Coalition of Sovereign Migrant Workers (KBMB), which comprises six groups in Indonesia and one in Hong Kong, released the report after interviewing 33 undocumented migrant workers in Sabah who were detained in temporary detention centres before being deported to Indonesia between December 2019 and September this year.

According to the report, most of the workers were from Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara.

“From our interviews, the majority said they were treated like animals,” KBMB coordinator Musdalifah Jamal said in a webinar session on Wednesday.

MalaysiaNow is still trying to contact the home ministry and immigration department for a response to the allegations.

The report also revealed that most of the detainees had to contact family members in their home country to ask for money and food to meet their basic needs while in detention.

But migrant workers interviewed by KBMB said even this was often taken away by immigration officers at the detention centre.

But migrant workers interviewed by KBMB said even this was often taken away by immigration officers at the detention centre.

“A third of the money sent goes missing, as does a portion of the food. Detainees who want to contact family members are forced to inform the staff and pay around RM10 to RM20 for calls not exceeding an hour,” it said.

MalaysiaNow understands that approximately 1,082 detained migrant workers from Indonesia have been deported so far.

‘Unfit’ for human habitation

According to the report, conditions at the detention centres are so bad that many detainees suffer from emotional distress in addition to physical ailments such as skin problems.

“Migrant workers were found to be in poor physical health, with mental health problems and stress,” the report said.

Worse still are claims of detainees who died in detention due to lack of medical care.

The report also mentioned a case in which the centre refused to allow a detainee’s family member to view the body, even though that family member was also detained at the same centre.

It further revealed a lack of facilities for pregnant women, infants, children and the elderly, and spoke of witnesses who had seen babies delivered without the supervision or assistance of paramedics or medical staff.

Infections and skin diseases are also common at these centres although detainees are not treated for these problems.

Infections and skin diseases are also common at these centres although detainees are not treated for these problems.

“The skin diseases experienced by almost all of the detainees – and other ailments – are caused by a lack of clean water supply for bathing,” the report said.

“The water made available to detainees is far from clean and certainly unsuitable for drinking, bathing or washing.”

Migrant workers interviewed by KBMB also said they often went without baths for three consecutive days as the water was too dirty and smelly.

A doctor treating Indonesian migrant workers in Sabah was quoted as saying that such water was the cause of infectious skin diseases among detainees.

The most common type of skin disease at the centres is Norwegian scabies which spreads rapidly and requires proper medical care.

The report also quoted a physician and HIV consultant who said the poor conditions at the centres not only accelerate the spread of cholera, diarrhoea and cough, but “also increases the risk of hepatitis and HIV transmission, as limited medical equipment means what little equipment is used among many detainees”.

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