Monday, July 15, 2019

Nigerian Death In Custody - Investigate Immigration law,officers, procedures - EQUAL rights for ALL including foreigners?

Suhakam must probe custodial death of Nigerian student

Madpet  |  Published:
LETTER | Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) notes with sadness the death of Nigerian student, Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, who died while under detention at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Depot on July 9. 

He was arrested by the Immigration Department on five days earlier for maybe allegedly being an undocumented migrant.

Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud was reported saying that "The student was suspected of committing offences under Section 56(1) of the Immigration Act 1959/1963 and was arrested under Section 51(5)b) for 14 days for further investigations." 

This section contains many different offences, and there seems to be no indication of what exactly the suspected offence for which Ewansiha was arrested for.

If it was merely because he was a suspected undocumented migrant, this is a fact that could be speedily confirmed by reference to the department's own records, the school he was attending, and the Nigerian embassy. 

He should have been released within hours, and not still be in detention for days.

Unfettered judicial discretion in remand applications

The Federal Constitution, in Article 5(4) states: "Where a person is arrested and not released he shall without unreasonable delay, and in any case within 24 hours (excluding the time of any necessary journey) be produced before a magistrate and shall not be further detained in custody without the magistrate"s authority..." 

There is an exception when it comes to a non-citizen, where it states that "….other than a citizen, who is arrested or detained under the law relating to immigration, this clause shall be read as if there were substituted for the words 'without unreasonable delay, and in any case within 24 hours (excluding the time of any 'necessary journey'). 

This means the foreigner arrested for an ‘immigration offence’ need not be brought before a Magistrate within 24 hours, but "within 14 days."

The only justification is that time may be needed to verify whether the passport or the visa of the foreigner is real or forged, where 14 days may be needed.

The Immigration Act, in Section 51(5)(b) states, amongst others, that "Where any person other than a citizen is arrested or detained under this act, whether for an offence against this act or otherwise than for such offence, and has not been earlier released, or charged in court for an offence against this act, or removed from Malaysia under this act, he shall, within 14 days of his arrest or detention, be produced before a magistrate who shall make an order for his detention for such period as may be required by an immigration officer or a police officer for the purpose of investigations into an offence against this act, or by an immigration officer for the purpose of either making inquiries, or affecting his removal from Malaysia, under this act."

This provision seems to remove the judicial discretion of the magistrate, who in a remand application should listen to the police (in this case the Immigration officer), the suspect and make an appropriate remand order or set him free. 

The act uses the words, "…magistrate who shall make an order for his detention for such period as may be required by an immigration officer or a police officer…" which implies the magistrate has no choice but just order remand for the number of days requested by the said Immigration officer – and this goes against the ordinary remand powers of a magistrate.

It is an injustice that a Malaysian citizen, suspected of committing the same immigration offences are treated differently from a non-citizen. The Malaysian is brought before the magistrate within 24 hours, and the foreigner within 14 days.

Equality for all persons

Madpet urges the government to ensure that all persons, citizens or non-citizens, should be brought before the magistrate within 24 hours if the police, Immigration officer and/or other enforcement officers, want to detain a person for further remand for the purposes of investigation.

The magistrate should have the power to grant or refuse the remand application, and to determine the number of days remand allowed, in any case, no remand order shall be more than seven days being the maximum remand provided for serious offences in Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states, "if the offence which is being investigated is punishable with death or imprisonment of 14 years or more, the detention shall not be more than seven days on the first application and shall not be more than seven days on the second application."

The Federal Constitution should also be amended, to ensure that Article 8(1), which states "All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law" is given full effect. 

In this modern age, hours are sufficient to verify whether a person is in Malaysia legally or not, not 14 days as envisaged by constitution drafters in 1957.

Suspects of offences must be placed in lock-ups, not together with other confirmed undocumented migrants.

Allegations should not be ignored

Ewansiha died in custody, and even if it is later established that he died of natural causes, the real issue is really why he was still being detained when he should have long been released within hours, noting the fact that he was definitely not an illegal immigrant. 

There have also been other recent allegations related to the Immigration Department, its officers and detention centre conditions.

We note that it was also reported in media that 68-year-old Singaporean Puis Gilbert Louis – a holder of a valid visa until Nov 11 last year and who was arrested on Oct 9 and ended up in detention for 37 days – had commenced a suit against the Immigration Department, seeking RM2.67 million compensation for his detention in an overcrowded cell.

There have also been allegations about children in Immigration detention centres, and other allegations about abuse of powers and detention conditions.

Madpet also calls on Suhakam to immediately visit and investigate the detention conditions at Immigration detention places, a power that is bestowed on Commissioners by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999.

Madpet also calls for a parliamentary select committee, not the home minister or any other interested parties, to investigate the Immigration Department, its practices, its powers and detention conditions.

Madpet urges the government to act speedily to improve detention conditions, but also reform procedures and laws, and act speedily and openly against any or all Immigration officers who have abused their powers, been involved in torture or have facilitated offences by reason of indifference, solidarity with fellow officers or any other reason. - Malaysiakini, 15/7/2019

See full statement at

Independent SUHAKAM must investigate Nigerian’s Death in Custody, Immigration Procedure and Detention Conditions



Five more times Immigration Dept was accused of abuse

Detained suspected illegal migrant workers from Indonesia stand before their documents are checked during a crackdown on illegal migrant workers in Nilai. – Reuters pic
Detained suspected illegal migrant workers from Indonesia stand before their documents are checked during a crackdown on illegal migrant workers in Nilai. – Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — The recent death of Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, a Nigerian PhD student, who died while he was detained by the Immigration Department has again cast a spotlight on the agency’s history of being accused of ill-treating and abusing its subjects.

Thomas was detained even his documents, such as passport and student pass, were all valid. The 33-year-old is survived by a wife and two young children.

In July last year, foreign media reported extensively on horrifying tales of alleged abuses while in the hands of immigration officers in detention centres nationwide, including cases of violence and extortion.

Local human rights group Tenaganita’s executive director Glorene A. Das was reported saying that the abuse is a daily occurrence, and those reported were just the tip of the iceberg.

Malay Mail lists down five of other cases where the Immigration Department was accused of atrocities in the past year:

1. Damaging Singaporean’s passport, demanding bribe

Last October, a Singaporean national who called himself Muhammad Fauzi related that his passport was damaged by an Immigration officer at the Sultan Abu Bakar Customs, Immigration and 
Quarantine Complex in Johor the month before.

The officer allegedly demanded a bribe to allow Fauzi to exit the country after tearing his passport.
Fauzi has since claimed that three other people have personally contacted him over similar ordeals, and urged others to step forward.

2. Refusing pass extension for pregnant Indonesian woman

In the same month, the Immigration allegedly rejected an Indonesian woman from extending her stay, even as she was pregnant and could not board a plane home.

Her husband, a Malaysian technician who called himself Albert, was even allegedly told by an officer that she should be sent home by ship if she could not travel by air. His wife was then eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

Albert was assisted by Seberang Prai municipal councillor K. Jason Raj later on, and when the two met up with a senior Immigration officer, the husband was rudely asked why she was brought here. 

Both were then told to leave.

3. Screaming, hurling insults at French academic

Renowned academic on Malaysia, Sophie Lemiere, was allegedly bullied by Immigration officers in January this year after her name was found to be on the “Suspicious List” of persons.

The French national was here to attend a conference following an invite by Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong.

Lemiere claimed she tried to explain that she was on the list due to her research during the previous regime, but was screamed at by one of the officers while another female officer insulted her using foul language such as “shit” and “stupid” several times.

4. Sued for detaining Singaporean in over-crowded, filthy cell

Last month, Singaporean national Puis Gilbert Louis sued the Immigration Department, seeking RM2.67 million in compensation, after he was allegedly detained in an over-crowded cell at the Pekan Nanas immigration camp.

Louis was arrested in October last year following a night raid at his house in Johor Baru. It was uncertain why he was detained, but he suggested that it may be because he was suspected of harbouring three of his guests who were accused of being illegal immigrants.

Reported to be an asthmatic and claustrophobe, Louis claimed he experienced breathing difficulties on the way there. The camp cell he was placed in housed 130 people, its toilet dirty and open, with no clean water available for drinking and food provided in unhygienic conditions.

Due to these conditions and others, Louis contracted diseases and lost a substantial amount of weight, only being able to seek medical treatment after he was released. He also claimed no lawyer could visit him during the detention, and that family and friends were only allowed limited access.

5. Detaining two babies for three weeks, refusing access to Filipino mums

The department kept detaining two Filipino babies not even two years old at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre despite repeated intervention from Putrajaya, while their mothers were denied access to see their children for 20 days.

The undocumented babies were detained during an immigration raid in Kajang, and were in the care of a relative. Their mothers who had valid visas were not at home.

It was only following revelation by Tenaganita and media coverage that the Immigration said they would be deported the next day.

Following their return, Philippines civil society Migrante International revealed that the refugees were allegedly treated “like animals”.

The claims include frequent routine inspections, unhygienic food, and cramped living spaces. Even the children were not spared from verbal abuse by the wardens and officers, with many of them in need of medical attention.

One woman said almost all of the detainees are from developing countries, including neighbours Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

One of the women claimed she witnessed how a detainee from Kenya was tied to the wall with both hands and made to stand the whole day, after showing signs of psychosis.- Malay Mail, 13/7/2019

Immigration DG confirms Nigerian PhD student died in custody

Published:  |  Modified:
A Nigerian doctorate student at a local private university died on July 9 in the custody of the Immigration Department.

Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud (above) confirmed the incident which was highlighted on social media by other Nigerian students here.

"He died in a detention centre at Bukit Jalil on July 9, 2019, at 0030. No breach of SOP (standard operating procedure).

"We are still awaiting the laboratory report from HUKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre)," Khairul Dzaimee told Malaysiakini.

He said the student was detained on July 4 during an Immigration operation in Desa Aman Puri Apartment, and subsequently placed under remand for 14 days to verify his documents and seek confirmation from the college on his attendance record and details of his course.

Khairul Dzaimee also revealed that 20 others were detained during the same operation launched following complaints about alleged "misbehaviour" of foreigners in the area.
He further claimed the student did not give full cooperation during the operation and attempted to run when being approached by immigration officers.

In a press statement, Khairul revealed further details including that the student upon arrest had presented his passport which he said contained a valid student visa.

However, the student's initial reaction to flee had raised suspicions over the validity of his travel documents.

"The student was suspected of committing offences under Section 56(1) of the Immigration Act 1959/1963 and was arrested under Section 51(5)b) for 14 days for further investigations," he said.

He said the student, who did not reveal any existing illnesses, was also given basic treatment for an old injury on his right calf during the documentation process carried out at the Kuala Lumpur Immigration Department office before all those arrested were taken to the Bukit Jalil Immigration depot at noon on July 5.

With regards to the death in custody, Khairul said at approximately 12.05am on July 9, the depot's officer-in-charge was informed by other inmates that the student had suffered fits while asleep.

He said the student was treated by the team on duty who also alerted the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) to send an ambulance.
"The ambulance arrived with a medical assistant at 12.30am but the subject was subsequently pronounced dead," he said, adding the immigration officer on duty subsequently lodged a police report at the Bukit Jalil police station.

Earlier today, the Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology announced the death of one of its doctorate students on its official Twitter account.

"It is with the deepest regret that we report the demise of Orhions Ewansiha Thomas. Pursuing his PhD in Management, Mr Thomas was an inspired young man.

"All of us at Limkokwing University wish to express our heartfelt wishes of love and support to all affected," the university tweeted, along with a photograph of the student and a note "in loving memory".

It is understood that the university administration had issued a notice to suspend all classes scheduled for today in anticipation of a gathering by students on campus. - Malaysiakini, 12/7/2019

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