By Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur
April 23, 2008 07:02pm
Article from: Reuters
MALAYSIA'S crackdown on illegal immigrants is taking a toll on the Government as detention camps are filled to the brim and deportation plans have hit snags, the country's rights body said.
"It is like a time bomb," said Siva Subramaniam, a member of Malaysia's national human rights commission, Suhakam.
"There should be a rethinking of the situation."
Malaysia holds some 10,000 illegal immigrants at immigration detention camps which rights campaigners say are more like "caves" due to overcrowding and appalling conditions.
"These are not healthy places and are too overcrowded," Mr Subramaniam said.
"Some people have been languishing for too long. Some of them are mentally disturbed."
His comments came after detainees from Myanmar rioted at a Malaysian holding camp on Monday, torching a building, after hearing they had apparently been denied asylum in a third country.
In the incident at the Lenggeng camp just south of Kuala Lumpur, some 72 Myanmarese forced their way into an administrative block and set it ablaze.
"They were disappointed on hearing the UNHCR (the UN Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) couldn't get a placement for them in a third country," the Immigration's head of enforcement, Ishak Mohammad said on Monday.
The UNHCR said no refugees detained in Lenggeng had been delivered any news that their resettlement request was denied.
There are 75 refugees and asylum-seekers known to UNHCR in Lenggeng.
"Our records indicate that their cases are still being actively processed by our office," a UNHCR spokesperson in Malaysia said.
Mr Subramaniam said he would lead a Sukaham mission to the camp on Thursday to investigate Monday's riot. Malaysia, a magnet for unskilled and semi-skilled Asian labour, is home to around 3 million foreign workers, 1 million of whom are working illegally.
In addition, the country has about 39,000 refugees registered with the UNHCR, the body said.
Home (Interior) Minister Syed Albar said at the weekend the Government was up to its neck with foreign worker problems.
"Malaysia cannot take more foreign workers," he told the Star newspaper. He said Taiwan, with a population of 23 million people, has only 400,000 foreign workers. Malaysia has 27 million people.