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Nigerian student’s death: Hakam condemns 14-day detention, calls for inquiry into cause of death

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Hakam strongly condemns the Immigration Department’s decision to detain PhD student and legal migrant Thomas Orhions Ewansiha for a maximum 14 days under the Immigration Act 1959/63.

Ewansiha’s status could have been expeditiously cross-checked with existing systems and his university. Neither Ewansiha’s alleged fleeing from the raid nor the need to verify his documents justified his remand in detention for 14 days. It is clear that Ewansiha’s right to bodily autonomy and liberty were arbitrarily infringed upon.

Hakam emphasises the imbalance of power between local authorities and migrants of all creeds in Malaysia. Migrants are often the victims of discrimination, are subject to racism, harassment, and stigmatisation.

Ewansiha was subject to discrimination when he was apprehended on the basis of his nationality and ethnicity in a raid specifically targeted against African migrants. The right to non-discrimination and freedom of movement must be upheld as universally for migrants as as it is for citizens of Malaysia.

Hakam further urges the government to conduct a thorough and independent investigation and/or to set up an inquest on Ewansiha’s death. His friends and family deserve the truth of what happened to Ewansiha. If there is any evidence of foul play, action must be taken immediately.

Hakam also urges the Immigration Department of Malaysia to substantially improve detention conditions in prisons as well as for migrants in custody. There must be a robust overhaul of the standard operating procedure and conditions of these detention centres in Malaysia. Migrants possess an inalienable right to life, right to health and to be treated with dignity in Malaysia.

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Hakam also reiterates its support for the right of Nigerian students and migrants in Malaysia to lawful peaceful protest.

Hakam expresses its sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Ewansiha and urges the Immigration Department of Malaysia to take measures to ensure that this unfortunate tragedy befalling Ewansiha is not repeated again in the future.

Lim Wei Jiet is secretary-general of Hakam.

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