One dead as 131 Burma migrants escape Malaysian detention center

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An undocumented migrant from Burma has died in a road accident while fleeing an immigration detention center with over a hundred others in Malaysia late Thursday, officials said.

The incident was the second reported breakout from a Malaysian detention center in as many years. In April 2022, 582 ethnic Rohingya refugees from Burma escaped an immigration depot in northern Kedah state. Six of those migrants were killed after being hit by vehicles on a highway.

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A total of 131 migrants escaped from the Bidor immigration detention depot in Malaysia’s western Perak state on Thursday night, Immigration Department director-general Ruslin Jusoh said in a statement on Friday.

Security guard at Malaysia's Bidor Immigration Detention Center

A security officer stands guard at the entrance of an immigration detention center from which more than 100 Burmese migrants escaped, in Bidor, Malaysia, on Feb. 2, 2024.  (REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain)

One of the migrants died following a road accident, he said, adding that search operations were ongoing for the remaining escapees.

The migrants, who escaped from the men’s block of the depot, included 115 ethnic Rohingya refugees and 16 Burma nationals of other ethnicities, state news agency Bernama reported, citing a statement from Perak police. Bernama reported the man who died had been struck by a vehicle on a highway.

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Malaysia, which does not recognize refugee status, has long been a favored destination for ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma or refugee camps in Bangladesh.

But in recent years, Malaysia has turned away boats carrying Rohingya refugees and rounded up thousands in crowded detention centers as part of a crackdown on undocumented migrants.

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