Malaysia detention centres 'violating rights'
By Kanaha Sabapathy for Radio Australia (28/5/2009)
The recent deaths of two illegal immigrants in one of Malaysia's many detention centres has raised the issue of the conditions under which detainees are held in the country.
Last year Suhakam, Malaysia's Human Rights Commission, identified medical care as an overriding reason why 1,300 detainees have died over the past six years.
Now two Burmese immigration detainees have died from leptospirosis, a disease caused by exposure to contaminated water.
Dato Siva Subramaniam, a Suhakam commissioner, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program denial of health care was a violation of detainees' right to life.
"At present the 22 centres throughout Malaysia do not have a permanent clinical dispensary manned by doctors or a medical assistant to help detainees," he said.
"They have a visiting doctor only."
He noted that the 1,300 deaths notified to parliament covered not only immigration detention centres but prisons and police lock-ups.
Nevertheless, "we want improvement", the commissioner said.
He said Suhakam had identified health care and hygiene, including proper water supplies for detainees, as key issues at the centres, which are overseen by immigration officers.
"Suhakam wants to ensure there is medical care, that there is a permanent doctor placed, and we want this to be done in every camp," the commissioner said.
With new diseases such as swine flu breaking out in the region, each inmate should undergo a proper medical check before they are put together with other detainees, he said.
Their embassies should also be notified.
Another problem was too many inmates in centres.
"The problem of overcrowding is something we need to be looked seriously at," he said.
Source: ABC News