Police blamed rioting after 115 Rohingya and 16 other people from Myanmar escaped from the facility Thursday evening.
Malaysia is searching for dozens of Rohingya refugees and others from Myanmar after they escaped from a temporary immigration detention center in the country’s north.
One man was killed on Thursday evening after 131 men escaped from the Bidor center in the northern state of Perak, the Immigration Department said in a statement. Perak police said the man was hit by a car while trying to cross the main north-south road and the men fled following a riot in the camp.
Some 115 of them were Rohingya and the remaining 16 belonged to other Burmese ethnic groups.
Immigration Ministry director general Ruslin Jusoh said 375 police, soldiers and volunteer reservists had been deployed to search for them.
Malaysia is a popular destination for the mainly Muslim Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 after conflict. brutal military repression this is now the subject of a genocide investigation at the International Court of Justice.
Many have sought to escape harsh conditions in Myanmar and Bangladesh refugee camps by undertaking dangerous boat journeys to Southeast Asia. A few 569 died or disappeared at sea last year, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said last month.
Myanmar nationals made up 88% of the 185,300 people registered with UNHCR as refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia at the end of 2023.
Some 107,670 of those registered with the agency are Rohingya who were stripped of their citizenship by a military government in the 1980s. Others from Myanmar have sought refuge in Malaysia amid escalating tensions . civil war since the military seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government three years ago.
Malaysia has no system for processing asylum applications and refugees are considered undocumented migrants. Most live a precarious existence, at risk of being arrested as “illegal migrants” or being exploited in low-paid jobs that Malaysians do not want.
The Immigration Department has accelerated a crackdown on undocumented migrants in recent months, reporting regular raids, but UNHCR has not been allowed to visit immigration detention centers to check the refugees’ status for several years.
In April 2022, more than 500 Rohingya refugees, including children, fled a temporary detention center in Penang state and six were killed while trying to cross the highway.
This incident was also blamed on a riot.