Six Rohingya refugees killed in highway collision after hundreds flee detention centre during rioting

Over 500 refugees escaped from the camp following rioting but most have been re-arrested

Namita Singh
Wednesday 20 April 2022 11:55
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<p>Rohingya refugees who had escaped from Malaysian Immigration’s temporary Sungai Bakap depot detained on the side of a road in Penang on on 20 April </p>

Rohingya refugees who had escaped from Malaysian Immigration’s temporary Sungai Bakap depot detained on the side of a road in Penang on on 20 April

Six Rohingya refugees from Myanmar died on Wednesday after being hit by a vehicle on a Malaysian highway while fleeing from the Sungai Bakap Immigration Detention depot after a protest broke out.

They were among 500 detainees who also escaped.

The six people – two men, two women, a boy and a girl – were attempting to cross the North South Expressway, located about 8km from the detention camp at 6.50am local time, said Kedah state police chief Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad.

A total of 528 refugees attempted to escape from the camp located in northern Penang state by breaking down doors and barrier grills. As many as 362 people have since been rearrested, said the immigration department in a statement.

“When they saw the accident that killed their countrymen, 229 other detainees decided not to cross the highway for fear of suffering the same fate,” Penang police chief Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain said, according to Malay Mail. “So they just walked along the highway, not knowing where to go after escaping the immigration depot.”

Mr Shuhaily told the outlet that the Penang police were in the midst of locating the other detainees.

Authorites are still investigating the cause of Wednesday’s riots, said the police. The camp held 664 Rohingya refugees, including 137 children, before the riot.

Malaysia, with a dominant Muslim population, is a preferred destination for Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The country does not grant refugee status but has been home to around 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers accredited with the UNHCR, including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other ethnic groups from Myanmar.

Since 2020, however, the country has rounded up thousands of Rohingya refugees and housed them in crowded detention centres, in what the Malaysian authorities have described as their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Additional reporting by agencies

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