Returned workers tell of ‘hellish’ detention
Nearly 70 Myanmar citizens were repatriated from immigration centres in Malaysia yesterday, and described being deprived of food and medical treatment while detained.
NEARLY 70 Myanmar workers who had languished in immigration detention centres in Malaysia were welcomed home yesterday, the third group to be repatriated in honour of the state counsellor’s 71st birthday.
So far, 214 Myanmar citizens from camps around Malaysia have received paid trips home, according to U San Win, chair of the Kepong Free Funeral Services, including 62 in the first group, 84 in the second and 68 in the third. A further 120 paid for their own airfare.
The repatriations began on July 13, and U San Win added that the returns will continue so long as donations are maintained.
“Now, we have funding for over 250 people to return. We already handed over the funds to the embassy so officials could arrange the trip,” said U San Win. He added that the embassy had determined which of the detained citizens to repatriate.
In a statement yesterday, the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur pledged to continue assisting with the repatriations, prioritising those who had spent a lengthy period in the detention centres.
By the embassy’s estimate, almost 2000 Myanmar migrant workers are detained in Malaysia, with over 300 having already served their sentences but unable to return home because they have no money.
While the embassy had pledged to consider returning women, children and elderly citizens first, only two children and 36 women have so far been included in the repatriations.
“The embassy has been giving CI [certificates of identity] to detained Myanmar workers as quickly as possible and trying its best to send them back home,” the embassy’s statement said.
As they made their way through the Yangon airport yesterday, some reuniting with waiting relatives, many of the repatriated workers told The Myanmar Times they were unwell, dealing with swelling pains and issues associated with malnutrition due to a lack of food provided in detention.
Ko Saw Thinn, 32, spent over a year at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Depot. He said he has had leg pain for seven months, but never had a chance to see a doctor, despite requesting treatment.
“Many are suffering from similar conditions at the detention facility where I was held,” he said. “During the time I was there, I saw more than 10 detained Myanmar workers die.”
U Than Tun, 42, was held for five months at the Belantik immigration detention centre in Kedah. He was among the first group to be repatriated on July 13. “The centre is like hell,” he said. “I saw a few people go crazy because they could not endure the centre’s conditions,” he said.
For the third round of returns, the Myanmar embassy in Malaysia approved documents for 63 workers at the Bukit Jalil Depot, 26 from the Semrnyih Detention Centre and 30 from Lenggeng centre, 68 of whom were given funding for their return.
Ko Saw Thinn (bottom, centre) said he was denied medical treatment while detained in Malaysia.