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Give amnesty to undocumented migrants ahead of vaccination drive, says MP

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The authorities carried out a series of major raids on undocumented migrants in May last year.

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged the authorities to grant amnesty to undocumented migrants after the government announced plans to vaccinate the group against Covid-19.

Putrajaya yesterday said foreigners, including undocumented migrants, would be vaccinated for free under the National Immunisation Programme as part of the country’s effort to achieve herd immunity.

But authorities arrested scores of undocumented migrants last year after initially promising no action would be taken if they came forward to get tested, and Santiago said he did not want to see the group “tricked” once again.

“Providing vaccines for undocumented migrant workers should be welcomed, but it must come with an amnesty from immigration,” he told FMT.

“For it (vaccinations) to work, immigration must come out with a convincing statement and apologise for their earlier screw-up.”

There are around three million undocumented migrants in the country.

In March, senior minister for security Ismail Sabri Yaakob encouraged all undocumented migrants who attended a tabligh gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur to “come forward without any fear” and get tested for Covid-19, promising them they would not be penalised for being in the country illegally.

However, a series of major raids on undocumented migrants in May marked a stark reversal in policy, and it also led to Covid-19 clusters at immigration detention centres and police lock-ups. On May 31, Ismail said the government’s offer of amnesty had expired.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das pointed out that many undocumented persons – especially refugees, asylum seekers and those waiting for feedback from the Immigration Department on their legalisation status – came forward trusting the health ministry to carry out testing, tracing and treatment last March.

“But when the raids started in May, they all disappeared and went into hiding.

“We cannot have this happening again. If such harsh action starts all over again, the entire population would be at severe risk and scapegoating them (undocumented migrants) will continue,” she said.

Welcoming Putrajaya’s announcement that it would vaccinate all foreigners as the “way forward” in holding up the principles of equality and non-discrimination, Das hoped to see a vaccination plan that would be implemented in a transparent and effective manner.

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