말레이시아에서 140여 명의 이주노동자가 집중단속으로 체포됐다. 이들은 대부분 방글라데시, 인도네시아, 네팔 출신의 미등록 이주노동자였다. 지난 주 발생한 이번 체포는 말레이시아 내 이주노동자에 대한 경찰의 인권침해와 고용주의 착취에 국제앰네스티의 보고서가 발간된 직후에 발생한 것이다.
말레이시아 언론에 따르면 지난 2월 말 시작된 이주노동자 집중단속으로 현재까지 수백 명의 이주노동자가 체포된 것으로 알려져 있다.
집중단속으로 인한 체포는 출입국 보호소 내 과도한 인원수용으로 이어지고 있다. 또 출입국 법을 위반한 것으로 밝혀지는 경우 상당한 수준의 벌금 및 구금이 이뤄지며, 2002년과 2008년 사이 약 35,000여명의 이주노동자가 태형을 당하기도 했다.
국제앰네스티 정책국장이자 말레이시아 이주노동자 보고서의 저자인 마이클 보체넥 (Michael Bochenek)은 “이민자에 대한 급습은 미등록 이주노동자뿐만 아니라 등록 이주노동자에게도 영향을 준다”고 지적하며, “등록, 미등록에 관계없이 어떤 이도 자의적 체포나 끔찍할 정도의 구금 하에 놓여서는 안된다”고 말한다.
실제, 고용주들이 강제로 이주노동자의 여권을 보관하는 경우가 일상적으로 발생하며, 말레이시아 당국이 여권 사본은 합법적 체류의 자격으로 인정하지 않는 경우도 있다. 또 경찰이 아닌 ‘이카탄 렐라완 라키앗(Ikatan Relawan Rakyat, RELA)’이라는 민간경찰 용역단체 소속 사람들이 이주노동자 단속에 참여하는 문제도 계속되고 있다.
국제앰네스티는 그간 확인한 인권침해 문제와 이에 대한 권고 사항을 논의하기 위해 말레이시아 내무부와 노동부에 회의를 요청했으나 아직 어떤 곳으로부터도 확답을 받지 못했다.
Malaysia arrests migrants as crackdown continues
Monday 29 March 2010 The 140 arrests are part of an announced crackdown on migrants, many of whom come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nepal, who live and work in Malaysia without authorization. Malaysian authorities have arrested some 140 migrant workers in the past week, according to media reports, soon after Amnesty International released a report documenting police abuses and exploitation of migrants by employers.
The arrests are part of an announced crackdown on migrants, many of whom come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nepal, who live and work in Malaysia without authorization, reports said. Malaysian authorities have arrested hundreds of migrants since the crackdown began at the end of February, according to news reports.
Those arrested face protracted detention in overcrowded immigration detention centres.
Migrants who are found to have violated the immigration laws are subject to substantial fines, imprisonment and in some cases caning.
“These immigration raids sweep up documented as well as undocumented workers,” said Michael Bochenek, the report author and director of policy at Amnesty International. “Regardless of immigration status, nobody should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or appalling detention conditions.”
Employers routinely demand that workers turn over their passports, meaning that migrants who have authorization to work in Malaysia often have only photocopies of their passport and work permit. Authorities frequently do not accept photocopied documents as proof of lawful status.
Untrained volunteers with the People’s Volunteer Corps (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat or RELA) often participate in immigration raids. These volunteers are often unfamiliar with the documents they are examining, but they enjoy broad powers to enter private homes without warrants, question suspects, and make arrests.
Refugees, including from Myanmar, who hold cards issued by the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are among those caught up in the immigration sweeps this month. Malaysia does not recognize refugee status, but authorities had recently committed not to arrest and detain those holding UNHCR cards.
The detention of refugees in this month’s round-ups was a step back from that positive policy development, Amnesty International said.
Police and RELA agents both subject migrants to acts of harassment, extortion and violence, but RELA agents are responsible for the most rampant abuses against migrants, the Amnesty International report found.
Senior immigration officials assured Amnesty International in July 2009 that RELA no longer had a role in immigration enforcement.
Nevertheless, Amnesty International continued to receive reports of arrests and abuses by RELA agents throughout 2009 and the beginning of 2010. On March 21, an Amnesty International representative observed about 40 RELA agents checking immigration documents in the area of Kuala Lumpur’s central market.
Judges can and often do impose caning on migrants convicted of illegal entry. Nearly 35,000 migrants were caned between 2002 and 2008, the Malaysian government has confirmed.
Known as “whipping” in Malaysia, this punishment involves up to six strokes of the rotan, a thin wooden cane.
It leaves deep welts on the buttocks that take days to heal and is profoundly humiliating.
The practice violates the international prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
Amnesty International has sought meetings with the Home Affairs and Human Resources ministries to present its findings and recommendations. To date, neither ministry has confirmed a meeting.
After the release of Amnesty International’s report, Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced in an interview with The Star (Kuala Lumpur) that his ministry would act against those who exploited and abused migrant workers.