No detention centre mapping data


Malaysia Immigration Detention

Malaysia is a magnet for migrants and asylum seekers despite its poor human rights record and failure to ratify key human rights treaties. Illegal entry and stay is criminalized and migrants often serve prison sentences before being transferred to one of twelve “immigration depots” while awaiting deportation. Caning, a legacy of British colonial rule, is widespread. In 2013, more than 5,000 foreigners were caned.

Quick Facts


Immigration detainees (2016): 86,795
Detained minors (2014): 1,196
Persons expelled (2014): 59,765
International migrants (2015): 2,514,200
New asylum applications (2016): 20,346

Profile Updated: July 2015

Malaysia Immigration Detention Profile

One of the more vibrant economies of southeast Asia, Malaysia is a magnet for migrants and asylum seekers despite its poor human rights record and failure to ratify key human rights treaties. All unauthorized foreigners, including Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, are considered “illegal” or “prohibited” immigrants under the Immigration Act.[1] Immigration detention in Malaysia includes various unique and brutal features such as caning and detention aboard vessels.

Illegal entry and stay in Malaysia is criminalized and migrants often serve time in prisons before being transferred to one of the twelve administrative “immigration depots” while awaiting deportation.[2] Caning, a legacy of British colonial rule, remains a judicial punishment for criminal offences in the Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code. It was introduced in the Immigration Act in 2002 to deter unlawful migration. According to the Home Minister, 8,481 prisoners were caned in 2013, of whom 5,968 were non-citizens.[3] Denounced as a form of torture by Amnesty International[4] and as “anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society in a developed nation” by the national Bar Association,[5] it is applied to adult males between 18 and 50 years old and leaves permanent physical and mental scars.

Some 68,000 people were placed in immigration detention in 2013 according to the local press[6] including mainly Burmese, Indonesians, and Bangladeshis. The national human rights institution, SUHAKAM, reported that 1,406 children were detained in detention centres (immigration depots) from January to October 2013.[7] Section 34(1) of the Immigration Act provides that persons may be detained for “such period as may be necessary” pending removal. Immigration detainees generally spend between two months and two years in detention.[8]

Procedural standards are reportedly very poor. Immigration detainees are rarely informed of the reasons for detention in a language they understand and they have scant access to legal counsel. There are no alternatives to immigration detention. Some UNHCR refugee cardholders detained in immigration depots can be released subject to the government’s discretion but the UN refugee agency only has access to them after they are transferred to the depots from prisons where they first serve immigration related sentences.

The Malaysian Passport Act empowers immigration and police officers to “lawfully detain” persons unlawfully entering Malaysia on board vessels during the period that the vessel is within Malaysia or the territorial waters thereof.[9] However, no information about the frequency of the application of this measure appears to be available.


[1] Act 155, Immigration Act 1959/63. Amended up to 1 January 2006. Section 55E (7). http://www.agc.gov.my/Akta/Vol.%204/Act%20155.pdf.

[2] Act 155, Immigration Act 1959/63. Amended up to 1 January 2006. Sections 6(3), 15(4) and 36. http://www.agc.gov.my/Akta/Vol.%204/Act%20155.pdf.

[3] Yuen Meikeng. Zahid: Over 8,000 prisoners caned last year. The Star online. 12 November 2014. http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/11/12/Zahid-Parliament-prisoners-caned/.

[5] Anil Netto. MALAYSIA: Illegal Migrant Workers May Escape the Cane. Inter Press Service. 20 March 2007. http://www.ipsnews.net/2007/03/malaysia-illegal-migrant-workers-may-escape-the-cane/.

[6] Gho Chee Yuan. Government spends RM2m a day to feed illegal immigrants, says deputy minister. The Star Online. 6 January 2014. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/government-spends-rm2m-a-day-to-feed-illegal-immigrants.

[7] Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. Roundtable on Alternatives to Immigration Detention Held on 12th November 2013. http://www.suhakam.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Report-on-Roundtable-on-ATD-Malaysia.pdf.

[8] Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Addendum: Mission to Malaysia. A/HRC/16/47/Add.2. 8 February 2011.

[9] Act 150, Passport Act 1966. Incorporating all amendments up to 1 January 2006. Section 5(3). http://www.agc.gov.my/Akta/Vol.%204/Act%20150.pdf.

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



86,795

Total number of immigration detainees by year

2016

  • Total number of immigration detainees by year
NumberObservation Date
86,7952016
68,0002013


1,196

Total number of detained minors

2014

  • Total number of detained minors
NumberObservation Date
1,1962014
1,4062013


14

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2014

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
142014
122014
132014
152014
132010
172008


14,000

Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2014

  • Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
14,0002014
13,0002014
6,6402010
11,4002007


2

Number of transit facilities

2014

  • Number of transit facilities
NumberObservation Date
22014


59,765

Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)

2014

  • Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
NumberObservation Date
59,7652014
10,0002009


51,602

Criminal prison population

2016

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
51,6022016
39,7402013
38,3872010
50,3052007
43,4242004
28,8912001
29,1501998
24,8311995
21,6121992


29.1

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2016

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
29.12016
29.42013


167

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2016

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
1672016
1332013
1352010
1862007
1702004
1192001
1291998
1181995
1111992



30,331,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
30,331,0002015
29,300,0002012


2,514,200

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
2,514,2002015
6,000,0002014
2,469,2002013


8.3

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
8.32015
8.32013


2,000,000 - 3,000,000

Estimated number of undocumented migrants

2014

  • Estimated number of undocumented migrants
NumberObservation Date
2,000,000 - 3,000,0002014
540,000 - 1,800,0002011


92,209

Refugees

2016

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
92,2092016
94,1662015
97,5132014


3.32

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
3.322014
3.192012


20,346

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
20,3462016
25,7112014
20,1832012


90.4

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
90.42014


10,931

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
10,9312016
40,0002015
40,0002014

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition Show sources
NameObservation Date
Common law
Muslim law
Customary law

Constitutional guarantees? Show sources
NameConstitution and ArticlesYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
YesFederal Constitution of 1957 as amended in2007 by Act A1320. Article 519571957
Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Immigration Act 1959/63. Amended up to 1 January 2006.19592006
Additional legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Act 670. Anti-Trafficking in Persons and anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007. As at 1 November 2014. Section 25.20072014
Act 537, Prison Act 1995.19952009
Act 150, Passports Act 1966. 19662006
Regulations, standards, guidelines Show sources
NameYear Published
Immigration Regulations 1963. Regulation 39(b).1963

Immigration-status-related grounds Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention to prevent unauthorised entry at the border2015
Detention for unauthorised entry or stay2015
Detention to effect removal2015
Detention of unauthorised persons by executive discretion2015
Non-immigration-status-related grounds providing for administrative detention in immigration legislation. Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention on health-related grounds2015
Detention on public order, threats or security grounds2015

Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations? Show sources
FinesIncarcerationObservation Date
YesYes2015
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration Show sources
Grounds for IncarcerationMaximum Number of Days of IncarcerationObservation Date
Unauthorized entry18252015
Unauthorised stay18252015
Unauthorized re-entry18252015

Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
No Limit2015
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
142015
302015
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
No Limit2014

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detentionYesNo2014
Independent review of detentionNoNo2014
Right to legal counselNoNo2014
Information to detaineesNoNo2014
Access to consular assistanceYesYes2014
Access to asylum proceduresNoYes2014
Complaints mechanism regarding detention conditionsNoNo2014
Access to free interpretation servicesNoNo2014

Types of non-custodial measures Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
ReleaseYesinfrequently2014

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Accompanied minorsProvidedYes2014
Unaccompanied minorsNot mentionedYes2014
Stateless personsNot mentionedYes2014
Victims of traffickingProhibitedYes2014
ElderlyNot mentionedYes2010
Pregnant womenNot mentionedYes2010
Persons with disabilitiesNot mentionedYes2010

Mandatory detention Show sources
FilterNameObservation Date
YesAll apprehended non-citizens who do not have proper documentation2010

Re-entry ban Show sources
NameObservation Date
Yes2015

International Law Expand all

International treaties Show sources
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  4/19
International treaty reservations Show sources
NameReservation YearObservation Date
CRPD Article 320102017
CRPD Article 1520102010
CRC Article 1419951995
CRC Article 2819951995
CRC Article 3719951995
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
0/32017

Regional legal instruments Show sources
NameYear of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ASEAN CATPWC Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children2017

Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council Show sources
NameYear of VisitObservation Date
Working Group on arbitrary detention20102015
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation YearObservation Date
Working Group on arbitrary detention"117. Regardless of immigration status, nobody should be subjected to arbitrary detention or appalling detention conditions. The Government is reminded that it is its responsibility to guarantee the right to physical and psychological integrity and the right to security in immigration detention centres.[...] 119. The Government should also rule out detention of asylum-seekers and refugees as well as vulnerable groups of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, people with serious and/or chronic physical or mental health problems. 120. The Government should, in all cases, provide for automatic periodic review by a court of law on the necessity and legality of detention. 121. The Government should also provide for an effective remedy for detainees to challenge the necessity and legality of detention at any time of the detention period and ex post facto, and define the circumstances. 122. As long as there is a regime of mandatory administrative detention for migrants in an irregular situation, the Government should legally define its maximum period rather than basing it on Government regulations or policy. 123. The Government should also provide for a system of legal aid for immigration detainees. 124. The Government should assume the responsibility of improving the conditions in immigration detention centres as a matter of urgency. 125. RELA [Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia Volunteer Corps], as a volunteer force, should not be used for law enforcement nor for guarding immigration detention centres. "20102010
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20092017

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system Show sources
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Federal system2015

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Federal Task Force of Sabah2015
Immigration DepartmentInterior MinistryInterior or Home Affairs2015
Immigration DepartmentHome AffairsInterior or Home Affairs2014
Officer in Charge of the prisonInterior MinistryInterior or Home Affairs2014
Prison Department of MalaysiaInterior MinistryInterior or Home Affairs2014
Immigration DepartmentInterior MinistryInterior or Home Affairs2014
Immigration DepartmentMinistry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2014
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentPrison2009
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentPrison2008
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentPrison2007
Apprehending authorities Show sources
NameAgencyMinistryObservation Date
immigration officers, police officers and custom officers2014
RELA - Peoples Volunteer Corps, under the Ministry of Home Affairs2012
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Department of Depot Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, in peninsular Malaysia and SarawakGovernmental2015
Federal Special Task Force, for facilities in SabahGovernmental2015
Department of Depot Management, Ministry of Home AffairsGovernmental2015
Federal Task Force of SabahGovernmental2015
Federal Special Task ForceGovernmental2015
Prisons Department of MalaysiaGovernmental2014
Prison Department of MalaysiaGovernmental2014
Immigration Department, with collaboration from the prisons department, police, RELA (Peoples Volunteer Corps under the Ministry of Home Affairs) and the civil defence force (JPAM).Governmental2013
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentGovernmental2009
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentGovernmental2008
Jabatan Penjara Malaysia - Prison DepartmentGovernmental2007
Pasukan Petugas Khas Persekutuan Negeri SabahGovernmental2007
Penjara Wanita KajangGovernmental2007
Formally designated detention estate? Show sources
Formally designated immigration detention estate?Types of officially designated detention centresObservation Date
YesDedicated immigration detention facilities2014
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
2015
YesYes2014

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)International or Regional Bodies (IRBs)2017
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2015
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)International or Regional Bodies (IRBs)2014

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
11,3072015
10,5142014
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
1,5652014
1,2352011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
1,7542010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
22014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD) Show sources
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in USD)Observation Date
11.92014
15,370,0002012
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
62High2015

Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration Show sources
% who agree with the statement “We should restrict and control entry of people into our country more than we do now.”Observation Date
892007

Country Links


Additional Resources


April 2018 Newsletter

  Welcome to the Global Detention Project’s monthly roundup of recent publications and activities. For any questions about our content, please contact us at:  admin@globaldetentionproject.org    OUR LATEST PUBLICATIONS   Immigration Detention in Luxembourg: Systematic Deprivation of Liberty Although Luxembourg has a very small immigration detention system, the number of detainees has risen in recent years. […]

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review: Malaysia

Malaysia Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council 31st session, November 2018   The Global Detention Project (GDP) is an independent research centre based in Geneva that investigates the use of detention as a response to international migration. Its objectives are to improve transparency in the treatment of detainees, to encourage […]

Kidnapped, Trafficked, Detained? The Implications of Non-state Actor Involvement in Immigration Detention

This article critically assesses a range of new non-state actors who have become involved in the deprivation of liberty of migrants and asylum seekers, describes the various forces that appear to be driving their engagement, and makes a series of recommendations concerning the role of non-state actors and detention in global efforts to manage international migration.

Submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Malaysia

Global Detention Project Submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Pre-sessional Working Group for the 69th session (24-28 July 2017) Malaysia Geneva, June 2017   Issues related to immigration detention   The Global Detention Project (GDP) welcomes the opportunity to provide information relevant to the Consideration of the combined third […]

Engaging Governments on Alternatives to Immigration Detention

A leading organizer of the global effort to promote alternatives to immigration detention explores advocacy strategies for spurring detention reforms and the rationale behind the alternatives campaign.

Immigration Detention in Malaysia

Malaysia is a magnet for migrants and asylum seekers despite its poor human rights record and failure to ratify key human rights treaties. Illegal entry and stay is criminalized and migrants often serve prison sentences before being transferred to one of twelve “immigration depots” while awaiting deportation. Caning, a legacy of British colonial rule, is […]

There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention

From Mexico to the Bahamas, Mauritania to Lebanon, Turkey to Saudi Arabia, South Africa to Indonesia, Malaysia to Thailand, immigration-related detention has become an established policy apparatus that counts on dedicated facilities and burgeoning institutional bureaucracies. Until relatively recently, however, detention appears to have been largely an ad hoc tool, employed mainly by wealthy states in exigent circumstances. This paper uses concepts from diffusion theory to detail the history of key policy events in several important immigration destination countries that led to the spreading of detention practices during the last 30 years and assesses some of the motives that appear to have encouraged this phenomenon.

Back To Top