UNHCR is deeply saddened by deaths of detainees following reported riot at Bidor immigration depot in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, 8 February 2024
UNHCR is shocked and deeply saddened by the news of two detainees who tragically died while attempting to escape from the Bidor temporary immigration depot in the western Malaysian state of Perak on 1 February. We convey our sincere condolences to the family of the victims.
UNHCR is also concerned over the incident in the temporary immigration depot that led to the deaths, where 131 detainees – many of them reported to be from Myanmar, including ethnic Rohingyas - escaped following reported riots in the depot.
We are aware and concerned that in immigration detention facilities around Malaysia, there remain detained persons - including vulnerable individuals - requiring our attention and who may be asylum-seekers or refugees. As we have not received approval from Immigration authorities to access immigration detention centres since August 2019, this has unfortunately prevented UNHCR from seeing those detained in order to determine if there are individuals in need of international protection and to advocate for their release. UNHCR has advocated, and continues to do so, with the Immigration Department and relevant Government agencies and Ministries, including at the highest level, for immediate access to those who may be in need of our protection.
UNHCR, together with civil society partners, also stand ready to support the Government to develop alternatives to immigration detention, in particular for vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers including children and the elderly.
Seeking asylum is not an unlawful act. In all cases, detention should be a measure of last resort, should be authorized by the law and only undertaken if necessary and reasonable in all the circumstances, and proportionate to a legitimate aim. Alternatives to detention need to be considered prior to resorting to detention.
Ultimately, the appropriate steps, first of all, include a comprehensive, effective, and humane framework to manage the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
We are fully committed in our on-going cooperation with the Government to find predictable ways to better manage the refugee situation that address any legitimate national concerns and provide access to asylum for those in need of international protection.