At least 60
Many of those detained are from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana, and had travelled to Kuala Lumpur on holiday in March. They were scheduled to return to India in the second half of that month, but were stranded when Malaysia went into lockdown on March 18.
On March 19, Malaysia’s immigration department had issued an order saying all foreign nationals whose visa expired during the lockdown could leave Malaysia without any special pass, provided they had a valid passport. Despite this, immigration officials raided Malayan Mansion in Masjid India area of Kuala Lumpur on May 1, rounded up the Indian nationals and detained them at Bulkit Jalil immigration depot on the city’s outskirts.
Since then, one of the detainees, 67-year-old Zeawdeen Kadar Masdan from Chennai, has died of suspected Covid-19. Mumbai Mirror spoke to families of some of the other detainees, who said they said they have not been allowed to communicate with their loved ones since May 1, and that they were worried about their health as the Bulkit Jalil camp is known to be a Covid-19 hotspot.
Masdan had travelled from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur on March 17 with his son Jamaluddeen and the latter’s father-in-law on a multiple-entry visa valid for 30 days. They were scheduled to return to Chennai on March 20. But on March 18, Malaysia imposed a partial lockdown with a Movement Control Order (MCO) until further notice. India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation had also issued a travel advisory stopping all flights to Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia, leaving hundreds of Indians stranded.
According to a report by Malaysian news portal Malaysiakini, which did a series of reports on the detentions and his death, though Masdan had tested negative for Covid-19 prior to his arrest, he tested positive at the detention camp and was sent to a
Jamaludeen told Mirror, “My father had tested negative for Covid-19 twice, and I believe that he died because he was not given proper medicine and food at
Days before Masdan’s death on June 3, Zahir Hussain, the Malaysia coordinator for
The families of other detainees said they have been under tremendous stress since May 1. They said they have repeatedly complained to the Indian High Commission but have received no response.
A relative of two detainees from Hyderabad, who did not wish to be identified, said, “My 72-year-old father and brother went to Malaysia on vacation on May 4, and had confirmed return tickets for March 18. But they got stuck due to the lockdown. My dad underwent bypass surgery 10 years ago, and needs six medications which he may not be getting. They were registered for repatriation flights but have missed both flights so far – on May 14 and June 21.”
A woman from Chennai whose husband is among the detainees said he had landed in Kuala Lumpur on March 17. On learning about the lockdown the next day, he rushed to the airport but was stranded there until March 21 as a curfew was imposed in Kuala Lumpur. “We appeal to the government to please secure their release. More flights have been allocated from Kuala Lumpur to India, and we hope [my husband] is able to return on these,” she said.
A Ministry of External Affairs official promised to look into the matter. Malaysia’s national human rights commission Suhakam meanwhile has ordered a formal investigation into the detention of Indians, and the death in custody of Masdan. Jerald Joseph, commissioner of Suhakam, said, “We will soon interview concerned immigration officers, police officers and higher officials who made policy changes. We will also meet Indian high commissioner and try our best to contact the family members of the victim (Masdan) and others detained.”
Joseph added, “Under normal circumstances, visa expiry would have warranted action but he should not have been arrested in the first place. We will look into the cause of his death – whether it was due to natural causes, sickness or something else.”
Joseph said the Malaysian defence minister had also publicly announced that no action would be taken against foreigners with visas that expired during the Movement Control Order.
He said on completion of the investigation, the commission will make recommendations to the government. “Our powers are limited in the sense that we can make recommendations on the next cause of action. It is the government’s prerogative to implement the recommendations, but in matter of public interest such as this, the government is more inclined to find better solutions.”
Zahir Hussain of Pravasi Legal Cell said, “Those detained were also registered with the Indian High Commission for repatriation on Vande Bharat Mission flights. Though there were more than 15,000 Indians stranded at Kuala Lumpur, Air India had scheduled very few flights to India in phase I, 8 flights in Phase II, and 11 flights in Phase III repatriating less than 5,000 people. Those still stranded there face the danger of being detained by immigration in similar raids.”
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