528 Rohingya Who Fled The Detention Camp Were Being Detained Indefinitely Since 2019

Six of the escaped Rohingya refugees died after being hit by vehicles. There were two children among the six dead. They had broken out from a temporary Immigration Detention Depot early Wednesday morning, 20 April.

Cover image via Bernama & Sayuti Zainudin/Malay Mail

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for our latest stories and breaking news.

Yesterday, 20 April, 528 Rohingya refugees escaped from a temporary Immigration Detention Depot located at the Kedah-Penang borders

The pre-dawn incident occurred after the Rohingya refugees, who were being detained there, broke the doors and grills, said Immigration Department director-general (DG) Khairul Dzaimee Daud.

Called the Sungai Bakap temporary Immigration Detention Depot and managed by the Penang Immigration Department, the camp itself is located at Jalan Besar Relau in Bandar Baharu, Kedah.

At the time of the incident, there were a total of 664 detainees at the camp.

Following the escape of the 528 Rohingya refugees, 357 inmates have been recaptured.

Six of the escaped Rohingya refugees died after being hit by vehicles when they were crossing the Plus highway southbound near Jawi

There were two children, one boy and a girl, among the six dead.

"The [undocumented] immigrants had crossed the highway in their attempt to flee. While doing so, six of them were involved in an accident. Seeing that the six were involved in the accident, the rest of the [undocumented] immigrants decided to walk along the highway to safety. However, a group of youngsters spotted the [undocumented] immigrants and contacted the police, which led to their arrest here along the highway," Penang police chief Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain said during a press conference.

Some of the Rohingya refugees who fled have been recaptured.

Image via Sayuti Zainudin/Malay Mail

The escapees did not use any tools when breaking out of the Sungai Bakap detention depot, according to the Immigration Department DG

"They only used their bare hands," Bernama quoted Khairul Dzaimee as saying.

He said the depot, which was leased last year with a capacity of up to 700 detainees, was tightly controlled by the department and the Malaysian Volunteers Corps Department (RELA).

Image via Bernama

The escaped Rohingya refugees had been living in detention camps since they were originally detained in the waters of Langkawi in 2019

They were first placed at Langkawi Wawasan Camp. However, when the camp was closed in 2021, the refugees were later moved to several depots — among them is the Sungai Bakap camp, Khairul Dzaimee said.

The detention camps are known to have brutal conditions. The detainees don't get enough water or food, and many develop skin and lung infections, according to a journalist with Reuters.

Some of the Rohingya refugees who broke out of the detention camp yesterday claimed they did so because they were angered that a fellow detainee died after being denied medication for his illness.

Commenting on allegations, Khairul Dzaimee confirmed that while there was one death due to sickness, he denied that it was related to yesterday's incident, Bernama reported.

According to him, the reason for the escape is still being investigated.

In September last year, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin had given a breakdown of all the people who died while in custody in immigration detention centres, police lock-ups, and prisons.

Between 2020 to 23 August 2021, a total of 65 detainees died in immigration detention centres. Of which, 37 died in 2020, and 28 detainees died in immigration detention centres last year.

The revelation that the undocumented migrants, many of whom are Rohingya asylum seekers, were detained indefinitely has prompted Amnesty International to urge the government to review its policy

In a statement, the human rights group said that the policy of indefinitely detaining migrants is a violation of international human rights law and that the Malaysian government is urged to review it.

"The traumatising effect of detention, even for a short period of time, let alone indefinite, is well known. The government, therefore, needs to answer not only the deaths of the six individuals but also the reason why so many refugees, including children, are being detained," said the executive director of the group's Malaysia chapter Katrina Jorene Maliamauv.

"This unsustainable policy has led to overcrowding in detention centres and now this terrible incident."

Meanwhile, one of the Rohingya refugees claimed he had no choice but to flee the depot to avoid being beaten up by his countrymen:

In December last year, Malaysian flood victims had defended and thanked foreign workers for saving them during the disaster:

In June last year, the Immigration Department had uploaded a poster telling Rohingya migrants they are not welcomed in Malaysia: