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Indonesian NGOs rebuke Saifuddin over 'unethical' remarks on treatment of migrants – Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A group of Indonesian NGOs has called out home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for his “unethical and irresponsible” remarks in denying claims of inhumane treatment at an immigration detention centre in Sabah.
The group, known as Sovereign Migrant Workers Coalition (KBMB), said he seemed to be “devoid of empathy” when asked to comment about a viral video showing a frail-looking man speaking about the alleged dismal conditions at the Kimanis immigration detention centre.
On Friday, Saifuddin was reported to have said that the man in the video was already in poor health before he was detained by the authorities.
In the video, the man claimed that detainees were not getting enough food and drink, while requests for medicine were also not entertained by immigration officers.
“The minister’s statement which denied the poor handling of immigration centres that led to the deaths of detainees was unethical, irresponsible, and devoid of empathy,” KBMB said in a statement.
The group also slammed the Sabah immigration department’s recent statement that no detainees are being mistreated in the Kimanis immigration detention centre, saying it contradicts its own findings on the treatment of detainees.
On Friday, Sabah immigration department director Sitti Saleha Habib Yusoff was reported as saying that the detention and management of detainees in Sabah were done according to the relevant laws.
She also said the department ensured that all detainees got the appropriate treatment and management in terms of food supply and medical treatment.
However, KBMB said that based on interviews with detainees who had been deported, there was evidence that many of them had been infected with various diseases during their detention, some of which later led to their deaths.
“These deaths would have been prevented if the Malaysian government is committed to upholding human rights – especially migrant rights – in handling an immigration depot,” the group said.
KBMB also said the accuracy of the statements by Saifuddin and Sitti Saleha are questionable as they do not reflect the findings gathered from its investigations and the claims made by the man in the video clip.
Back in June, the group released a report which stated that the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta had recorded 149 Indonesians who died at five Sabah detention centres over 18 months between 2021 and 2022.
The report, produced after interviews with 100 former Indonesian detainees, also blamed the poor conditions at the detention centres, such as dirty toilets and having to sleep on the floor, for the detainees’ poor health. The group also claimed detainees were not referred to hospitals when they were ill.
At the time, immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud had downplayed the report, stating that only 24 Indonesians died at the detention centres in Sabah over the past two years. He said the deaths were mainly due to Covid-19, heart disease and other ailments.
The Malaysian embassy in Jakarta later issued an apology, stating that the 149 individuals who died were not all Indonesians.
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