KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has described the condition of the Tanah Merah Immigration Depot in Kelantan as deplorable and hazardous to the health and wellbeing of its occupants.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said based on a visit to the depot on Aug 23, the commission found that the detainees in the facility are being held in unacceptable conditions.
“In terms of physical and building conditions, Suhakam found that two out of the three main blocks made of wooden structures were dilapidated.
“To make matters worse, the conditions were unsanitary and the blocks were poorly maintained.
“The blocks also were found to be lacking of sufficient ventilation, causing it to be unbearably hot and foul smelling.
“Furthermore, almost all wall fans installed for ventilation purposes were not working,” he said in a statement.
He said during the visit, Suhakam found that in one block that housed male detainees, all five toilets were blocked and not functioning.
“The toilet conditions in the other male blocks were also unacceptable.
“Therefore, Suhakam advises that the sanitary installations shall be adequate to enable every detainee to answer the call of nature when necessary, in a clean and decent manner.”
The Tanah Merah Immigration Depot was gazetted in September 1994 and has been in operation since December of the same year.
According to the Home Ministry, the depot can accommodate up to 800 detainees, although the gazette capacity is 350 (250 male and 100 female).
During the visit, there were 429 detainees including 35 women and 82 children (below 18 years of age).
In terms of food budget allocation for the detainees, Razali said the RM6 per day was insufficient to cater for adequate meals.
“However, in term of food quality and water quantity, we observed that it were acceptable and in line with the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.
“The kitchen and food preparation area were well maintained and found to be clean during the inspection.”
Suhakam also received complaints from the detainees of health problems including scabies, back and stomach pains.
“We found that the current placement of an assistant medical officer (Grade U32) as not suitable to respond to health crises due to the number of detainees and the severity of their health problems.
“Therefore, we urge that a medical officer to be immediately appointed.”
Razali added that checks also revealed that the physiological impact of the detention conditions was apparent to Suhakam’s delegation.
“Due to the extremely poor conditions, even the facility staff faced serious health problems.
“It is Suhakam’s view that the poor conditions may further contribute to mental health concerns of both detainees and staff.
“Therefore, we recommend that compulsory, free of charge and targeted specific periodic health screening for immigration staff to be offered by the Health Ministry.”
Razali added that checks also revealed the lack of an outdoor recreation area for detainees.
He said Suhakam reiterates that the principle of treatment with respect for the dignity and value as human beings and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, must be respected in all immigration detention policies.
“Suhakam will continue to monitor and review all places of detention with our inspections underpinned by the Home Ministry and Immigration Department as well as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).”