Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Photo: Bernama

PUTRAJAYA: Al Jazeera should apologise to the people of Malaysia for carrying an inaccurate documentary on the way Malaysia managed undocumented migrant workers in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said it was unethical of the journalist concerned to produce the documentary, which he described as misleading and baseless.

“As an international media organisation, Al Jazeera should stop its action (of screening the documentary) and apologise to the people of Malaysia,” he told a news conference on the recovery movement control order (RMCO) here today.

The 20-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, alleged that Malaysia discriminated against illegal immigrants when it took steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Ismail Sabri said Al Jazeera had also lied by claiming that children of illegal immigrants had been treated cruelly, including being taken to the Immigration Detention Depots (DTI) in handcuffs.

However, the reality is that the children were not handcuffed and were in fact separated from other detainees and placed together with their parents, he added.

“This is a fact. Al Jazeera did not wish to know the facts and maliciously accused us of being racist, which is also untrue,” he said.

Ismail Sabri stressed that the arrest of illegal immigrants was based on Malaysia’s Immigration Act, which provides for action against immigrants without valid documents, a move consistent with the laws of other countries, too.

He challenged Al Jazeera to name any countries which give absolute freedom to illegal immigrants in their territories.

“As far as I know there is none. I believe there is no country which gives freedom to foreigners with expired visas,” he said.

Elaborating on the enhanced movement control order (EMCO), Ismail Sabri said all those in the affected areas, whether Malaysians or foreigners, were treated the same way and there was no discrimination.

“It is not true that the lockdown applied to illegal immigrants only because in other areas under EMCO like at the Madrasah tahfiz in Hulu Langat, we also confined our own citizens, not only foreigners.

“In fact, we screened them and the government had to bear the cost of the Covid-19 tests,” he said.

He said 68,829 immigrants with travel documents had been tested and 5,729 were found to be positive and treated in hospitals.

A total of 4,924 illegal immigrants at four DTIs had also been screened for Covid-19 and 777 were found positive and treated at The Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang quarantine and treatment centre before being sent back to the detention depots, he added.

Ismail Sabri thanked Malaysians for supporting the measures taken by the government to combat the pandemic.

“Yesterday, there were hundreds of thousands of dislikes on the button (on YouTube), so much so that Al Jazeera stopped the comment section; 100 per cent did not agree (with the documentary),” he said. – Bernama