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Stop targeted raids on migrants

We are especially appalled that undocumented migrants were sprayed with a disinfectant during a recent raid in Cyberjaya

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Aliran condemns the targeted raids against migrant workers, especially those who are undocumented. We are especially appalled that undocumented migrants were sprayed with a disinfectant during a recent raid in Cyberjaya.

This is inhumane and dehumanising, even if immigration officers were sprayed as well. We cannot and must not treat people this way.

Facebook posts encouraging people to report groups of undocumented migrant workers, while concealing the identities of those making the reports, are also shocking and unacceptable. Such posts encourage and perpetuate hatred against this group of people who are as vulnerable to Covid-19 as anyone else in this pandemic.

In the fight against Covid, Aliran reiterates that there can be no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is only us – all of us, as human beings – in the same pandemic. We need to work together to achieve herd immunity. This would reportedly require some 70%-80% of our 32 million population to be vaccinated within 18 months.

Common sense tells us that the virus does not vet immigration documents before deciding to infect someone. We know that Covid transmissions are not confined to migrant workers’ dormitories but are already prevalent in the broader community.

We know infections are in the community among both Malaysians and non-Malaysians. We know that being in confined and overcrowded spaces increases transmission. Thus, it would be wiser to focus on congested and cramped housing and factory working conditions.

Minister of Science and Technology Khairy Jamaluddin’s pledge that the government would not detain undocumented migrants who come forward to receive Covid vaccines was welcome. As coordinating minister for national immunisation, he added the government under the Covid taskforce was working with the Ministry of Home Affairs to contact foreign embassies, international organisations and NGOs to help assure undocumented migrants of this.

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So, what has changed? From a public health perspective, rounding up and detaining migrant workers who do not have proper documents is clearly not the way to go.

At a time when we need to recognise the humanity in each other, to look after each other, why are we doing the opposite? Surely #kitajagakita (we’ve got each other’s back) applies to all human beings in this pandemic? Energies need to be focused on getting as many people vaccinated as possible and building herd immunity instead of targeting a marginalised, voiceless group over their immigration status.

Aliran calls for restraint and common sense in its approach to migrants. There is no need for the Ministry of Home Affairs to target undocumented migrants despite having the power and legislation to do so. Such actions accomplish nothing. Instead, they reveal a severe lack of understanding and short-sightedness in curbing Covid infections. Worse, punitive action reveals a lack of human compassion during this pandemic.

Stop the hunting down of undocumented migrant workers. Give them a chance; help them come forward and get vaccinated. Stick to the plan. If we really want to protect the rights and wellbeing of the local people, then we should protect the rights and wellbeing of the migrant workers, documented or otherwise. Because, very simply, our survival is tied up with theirs.

Aliran executive committee
8 June 2021
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