Detained Burmese migrants stage hunger strike

May 25, 2009 (DVB), Around 600 Burmese migrants being held in poor conditions in a Malaysian detention centre staged a hunger strike last week in protest against their denial of access to United Nations refugee officials.

The three-day strike took place at Malaysia's Semenyih immigration centre, where around 1500 migrants of varying nationalities, including Vietnamese, Nigerian and Indian, are held. The strike ended on 21 May.

Among the Burmese migrants kept in detention by Malaysian authorities for staying illegally in the country are a number who are recognised as refugees by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).

The strike ended after camp officials agreed a meeting between the refugees and officials from the UNHCR which resulted in 45 being released, said a Burmese refugee.

"We demanded they let us meet with the UN officials and to stop the detention of those who already had served their time in the camp by deporting them back to Burma or to the Thai-Malaysia border," said the refugee.

"The conditions inside the camp are extremely poor, and the food they gave us is nothing better than dog food and it looked so disgusting to eat.

"Some people even threw up after just seeing that," he said, adding that pregnant women and mothers with their babies were being held inside the camp.

Burmese migrants detained in Thai and Malaysian immigration detention camps are often kept in detention by authorities without being charged.

Similarly, officials won't deport them due to lack of assistance from Burmese embassies.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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