Six dead after 500 Rohingya refugees flee Malaysian detention centre

Two children among those who died after being hit by vehicles on motorway

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Six Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including two children, have died after being hit by vehicles on a Malaysian motorway after more than 500 people escaped from a detention centre early on Wednesday.

During a riot, 582 Rohingya broke out of Sungai Bakap temporary immigration detention camp in northern Penang state by forcing open doors and barrier grills, Reuters reported.

Malaysian officials said 362 people have since been detained again.

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.

Malaysia, which does not recognise refugee status, has long been a favoured destination for ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Since 2020, however, thousands have been rounded up and housed in crowded detention centres, in what Malaysian authorities say are efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Police said they were still investigating the cause of Wednesday's riot, while authorities searched for the remaining detainees who had fled.

Two men, two women, a boy and a girl were killed after being hit by vehicles while trying to cross a motorway eight kilometres from the detention camp, Kedah state police chief Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad said.

Before the riot, the camp held 664 Rohingya refugees, including 137 children.

Malaysia houses about 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers accredited with the UN refugee agency, including more than 100,000 Rohingya and other Myanmar ethnic groups. Thousands more stay undocumented after arriving illegally by sea.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 11:25 AM
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