Are Malaysia’s Depots & Detention Centres disgusting, deplorable and dehumanising?

Background: HEIDY QUAH is the founder and director of Refuge for the Refugees, a non-profit organisation that she started when only 18. She seeks to raise awareness on the status of refugees in Malaysia and provide education for refugee children.

One year after she highlighted the terrible conditions suffered by the refugees, she was charged in a magistrate court, for being offensive and insulting.

The article below, is republished, in Rebuilding Malaysia, with Quah’s permission. It was the article which details her experience with the refugee mother and caused intense fury within government circles.

So, why should the authorities, in particular the Director of Depots and Detention Centres, be outraged? Can readers think of a reason? Please share your thoughts and experiences, if any, below.

If you recall, Al-Jazzera also earned the wrath of the authorities for more or less the same reasons.

The article below is by Heidy Quah

Heidy receiving her award at Buckingham Palace

Of RM12 Maggi, rags for diapers and cramped cells

By Heidy Quah

I was up at 4.30am today because a woman I met in an immigration detention centre before called me. She told me she had panic attacks and was getting flashbacks and nightmares during her time in detention.

At the time, she was detained – right after giving birth – with her baby.

She told me the cells were so cramped that there was no place to sleep.

There was barely any food to eat. With no access to sanitary pads, she had to bleed through her pants every single day, and wash it under water that wasn’t clean.

Her baby had to use a T-shirt for diapers. They were also given two pairs of pants and a shirt. They had to keep swapping. This meant her baby wore a wet rag as diapers.

When she was there, the Immigration Department officers called me to tell me the baby needs milk and diapers.

I bought and delivered them, but when I got there, the immigration officers said they only allowed cash. I had to hand the money to the officers and record the amount with detainee’s assigned alphanumerical number – not even her real name.

I got to visit her as the immigration depot provision store was closing for the day. She was handcuffed to the table while talking to me through a plastic wall with holes in it.

I have no idea why they had to handcuff her. She was already detained, where else could she run? I told her, ‘Go, buy what you need first, I will wait.’

When she came back, I asked her about the price of items at the store. One cup of Maggi Hot Cup Noodles was priced at RM12.

Throughout her time in detention, she said she witnessed people die. She said she witnessed people get beaten up. She said she was beaten up, herself.

I share this now to say the spike of 270 Covid-19 cases in the Bukit Jalil Detention Centre yesterday, following the mass arrests, isn’t surprising at all. Just look at the videos of mass arrests that took place at the peak of our MCO.

Comments across social media to these arrests have been appalling. Some people say: “Get rid of all the refugees and migrants! They are the ones spreading the virus with all their dirty habits.”

There was one person who commented on so many of my social media posts claiming she works with refugees. She was constantly schooling me. She told me she has more years of experience than I do – I never was competing – and that “refugees and migrants for sure have a better life here, that’s why they are here”.

Tell me.

Would you choose to flee your country? Drop everything and run? Choose life or death? Get separated from family? See your loved ones get locked away and not being able to do anything about it? Have family members so, terribly, scarily sick yet can’t do anything about it? Stay in a foreign country and fear for your life every single day?

Tell me.

Who brought the virus into Malaysia? Refugees and migrants – they don’t get the freedom of movement. They can’t travel. They can’t leave the country. So who did?

Tell me.

Who builds our buildings? Who are our security guards? Who does the hard, heavy lifting work in wet markets and supermarkets? Who works in our factories like slaves – producing “affordable” clothes for us to purchase and wear?

I understand the country has laws and regulations, but a global crisis, a pandemic, is not the time to attack the most vulnerable.

So much of our actions are implications of what’s happening today.

I get hell and mass hate comments every time I speak up. I gain nothing from speaking up, except knowing that I am using my voice for what matters.

(Editor’s Note: When contacted by Malaysiakini for a response to the above allegations, Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said, “No comment”.

Malaysiakini has also contacted Quah for additional details on her claims)

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

Quah’s article was published on 5 June 2020 in Malaysiakini. Click this link.

(More information about Heidy Quah: In June 2017, a few years after she formed her NGO, Quah received the ‘Queen’s Young Leaders’ medal from Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace, in London, for her work with refugees.

Throughout this pandemic, she and her NGO has fed around 50,000 people

All hell broke loose last week, because in July 2020, she had described on her Facebook page, the deplorable conditions, the beatings and deaths in refugee detention centres.  She also shared the experience of a refugee woman who had just given birth. There was a shortage of milk and diapers for the baby, and sanitary pads and private space, for the mother.

Quah was vilified on social media, insults were hurled at her, her race and her family. She was also told that she should hang herself.

Her reason for highlighting the alleged mistreatment was  not to shame anyone. However, she felt that it was important the refugees are treated with dignity, and for us to show compassion, more humanity and less hatred.

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Goh Michael says:

    The deplorable condition of our Immigration detention centres have been a bone of contention for many years and the authorities instead of improving/correcting the situation just chose to sweep everything under the carpet and deny there was any wrongdoing when NGOs write about them. Why have the those in people in charge forgotten that there’s no smoke without a fire? If I were Heidy Quah I would invite the commandant of the centre to accompany her whenever she goes to visit the detainees so that he can see for himself the decrepit conditions these detainees are subjected to. No human being should be subjected to such kind of abuses! I know what kind of answer she will get from the commandant of the detention centre – ‘I have no time to accompany you on such matters.’ I don’t know whether he realises it or not but such kind of request from the NGOs will serve as an eye-opener as to the deplorable conditions and over crowding in these centres and will also serve as a check against misreporting by NGOs/reporters and he can be in a better position to refute their allegations on the conditions of these centres because he would have already seen them for himself. Having said that he will also be able to recommend to the higher authorities the kind of changes/improvements that can be made to make it more conducive for human habitation. Another bone of contention is why is the canteen operator allowed to charge exhorbitant prices for basic necessities like a packet of Maggi mee, etc. Isn’t he required to post his prices for such things when he tendered for the running of the canteen? Why aren’t checks carried out periodically to see that he complies with the conditions of the tender. When he flouts his tender then he should be cautioned that it can be taken away from him for exploiting the detainees. There are many more infractions which are too numerous to enumerate but these are things that the commandant of the centre is supposed to look into periodically which apparently he has neglected. Of course he will conveniently say that he has many other important duties to look into and he has no time for them. A favourite phrase of civil servants! To overcome complains of the nature that I’ve mentioned, such centres should be subjected to scrutiny from human right bodies (like Suhakam) who should visit these centres periodically to see that things are done by the book and to put things right and their reports should be channeled to the relevant authority for co-ordination and action. It is no point trying to cover things up when everything gets exposed in the world press and we blame our NGOs for misreporting!!

  • Paul Wolfobitch says:

    Detention in the UK, particularly for immigrants ain’t a bed of roses and cuppa warm lapsang souchong, even if I agree detention in Bolehland is jolly damn rotten.

    But if Queenie awards Quah for work on detention elsewhere, one mustn’t speak ill of racist Buckhouse hypocritical treatment of them “foreign types”. Right now, Her Majesty’s Prisons detains a white prisoner of conscience and a journalist Julian Assange, we shouldn’t hold back on damning criticism of HM and HM gomen.

    Immigrants, be they illegal or legal get housed in appalling conditions, there is just too much public information on this. Suicides are common, while many suffer permanent psychological damage.

    So fcuk Mrs Windsor!

    And fcuk her award and recognition for whatever, some of our monkeys are just disgraceful perpetual colonial Sambo niggahs, who says there aren’t others aren’t quietly doing good work in our prisons, no need for that clap on the shoulder.

    Old Ebit Lew does work in prison, fair enough, sometimes he revels in his own charming publicity, there are not too few Buddhists and Buddhist organisations doing work in prison too, but they may be too “quaint” for Queenie…

    Yes, fcuk Mrs Windsor, again! Last (“illegal”) survey, more and more Brits can’t wait to shaft her out of their lives. Maybe Blighty should think about retiring her in the old colonies, India, for one, would like the royal cow back. And we still have quite a few nicely deculturalised grovelling colonial monkeys wanting Mrs Windsor back.

    Btw, for our monkeys who think they are speaking “the Queen’s English”, you ain’t, Sambos, you are only speaking your bizarre versions of pirated tongues of Brit “provinces”, no one from aristocracy or hoity toity Britland ever wanted to be posted in their far-flung empire, the “foreign parts”.

    Now, fcuk off, and take your little Sambo heads out of the white massahs’ butts, okay lah!

    • Paul Wolfobitch says:

      Forgot to say the UN special rapporteur calls Assange incarceration and treatment in HM Prisons, meaning detention “at HM pleasure” torture.

      I hope Quah slipped in a word or two to Queenie about Assange, he’s a white man detained in white country, not the done thing I should add.

      Meanwhile Mrs Windsor’s got the cheek all four wrinkly of them to play fcuking Mummy Teresa and not doing nowt to her own prisons, tiny cells, overcrowding, fascist guards, plenty of child abuse, physical and mental torture, filth, Covid, suicide, rape, buggery, etc etc.

      What’s galling is many innocent are kept in detention centers together with hardened criminals, many are held while waiting (forever) for their papers to be processed.

      So, fcuk that royal cow, yet again!

      I hope that woman of the colour not approved by Buckhouse, Meghan, ends the bloodsucker dynasty in a nasty way, and Jug-ears never comes on the throne, Amen!

      While it lasts, fans of the royal parasites deserve their queen, she’s German stock, part of her clan always wanted Hitler to rule Britain, Sieg Heil!

      Why am I saying all these? Few of our deculturised grateful colonial niggah monkeys would wake up from being loyal slaves, find a little bit of self-respect and stop their crawling… them good ole colonial days are over, niggahs, what’s the matter, still lost without your massahs?!

    • Cris says:

      Offensive, uninformed and rude, just ignore this troll. Focus on the real story.

      • Paul Wolfobitch says:


        As you judge and award yourself as “informed”, shouldn’t informed wisdom guide you in educating that “uninformed” and other “lesser beings” as to how to make themselves exactly like you?

        It would make Malaysia a possibly better place – and definitely one to suit your very personal liking if you would kindly share your most exalted gift of wisdom from Allah.

        And possibly from Adolf Hitler who attempted to screw the world to suit his very own personal bent.

        At the very least, let’s start with Malaysia first, let’s have a little share of your wisdom, if that’s for free, I can certainly do without the other two free gifts.

        I’ll ask for nothing to help control the crowds fighting their way to the head of the huge queue lined up to receive your wisdom and to seek your esteemed approval for being the folks exactly like you to suit your charming Stepford kingdom.

        Meanwhile, I believe there are robot yes man thinkalikes being tested that are meant for fascist outfits – but may jolly well be ideal for your empire – but perhaps not for any site entertaining some freedom of expression.

        Hope you won’t return, whenceforth I suspect you would flog your line of swastika armbands and drinking mugs – and manuals dictating your Nazi bent on others, leave others’ and this site be, O Kaypoh One!

        Seig Heil, Herr Goose-stepping Toothcomb Moustache!

        (I bet you’re a 3-foot tall grumpy old codger with a grudge against the world, yer missus left you because she got fed up with distorting and contorting herself to-be exactly like you to suit your vision for the universe. You now retire to a life of giving free advice or dictate to mankind.

        If I am a little bit off the mark about you, try lol. That should help you not get a free gift of a stroke late in your short life!)

        • Paul Wolfobitch says:

          Since we’re warm on the subject of Queenie, we should ask the Royal Moo about son Randy Andy.

          Randy has been in the news all the time about his very close relationship with Epstein and Ghislaine, both pushers and traffickers of underaged girls for often kinky sex – and bestiality.

          Among others, the FBI has been asking to interview Prince Andrew whom quite a number of then underaged girls want to sue for Randy’s crimes.

          Queenie’s son hasn’t been charged as yet, well, it is not possible to come near him presently, among others, Mrs Windsor has been obstructing those wanting to question Randy.

          Queenie may be giving bits of tin to those doing work against human trafficking and all, but Randy, the late Epstein, and Ghislaine have all been closely linked to human trafficking of the singularly worst kind – that for bestial sexual perversion – and involving underaged girls.

          Before telling Queenie to stick the bit on tin up hers, hows about asking her to hand Randy Andy over. It’s only question time, the filthy pervert scum of the filthy pervert consort Philip may not be guilty of anything at all – and might end up dead royal meat just like dearest friend Epstein.

          Or maybe even dearest Ghislaine…

Leave a Comment