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41 Rohingya refugees arrested after fleeing Malaysian detention centre

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More than 40 exhausted and hungry Rohingya refugees have been recaptured by Malaysian police following a detention centre breakout by 131 migrants from Myanmar, a senior police official said Sunday.

On Thursday, a total of 115 Rohingya migrants and 16 others — all of them men — rioted in their detention building before escaping the Bidor temporary immigration centre in northern Perak state.

The Rohingya experience persecution in their predominantly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar, with many fleeing to affluent, Muslim-majority Malaysia or to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

They often endure harrowing, months-long sea journeys to arrive in Malaysia by boat or sneak into the country via its porous border with Thailand.

If caught, they are usually sent to detention centres that rights groups say are typically overcrowded and filthy.

One Rohingya man was confirmed killed on Thursday in a road accident as he tried crossing a highway in darkness.

The 41 Rohingya men were rearrested at a palm oil estate and in the forest surrounding the nearby towns of Tapah and Bidor after a public tip-off, Perak police chief Mohamad Yusri Hassan Basri told AFP.

“We believe many more are hiding in the forest,” he said, adding that all those arrested were “hungry and exhausted”.

Yusri said 136 police and immigration officers are combing the forest, rivers and villages for the escapees from the latest breakout.

This is the second time in two years that such a breakout has occurred.

In 2022, 528 Rohingya refugees escaped from detention in northern Penang state.

Six were killed while trying to cross a highway, and hundreds of others were rearrested.

Recent months have seen a surge in ethnic Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, with the United Nations recording 1,752 such refugees — mostly women and children — arriving in Indonesia from mid-November to late January.

The agency said it was the biggest influx into the Muslim-majority country since 2015.

More than 3,500 Rohingya are believed to have attempted the risky journey to Southeast Asian countries in 2022, it said.

Nearly 1,000 Rohingya have died or gone missing since the start of 2022 while attempting the hazardous sea crossings, the agency estimates.

In Malaysia, more than 100,000 Rohingya live on the margins of society, with many working illegally in construction and other low-paid jobs.


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