A boat that carried Rohingya migrants for three months is seen at Langkawi island, in Malaysia's northern state of Kedah, Malaysia, May 12, 2015. According to an Amnesty International study, 325 Rohingya refugees and 65 from Bangladesh remain in captivity in Malaysia despite technically being freed in 2015. — Reuters pic - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/migrants-from-2015-refugee-crisis-stuck-in-detention-limbo#sthash.KfZ7hCo2.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Hundreds of refugees rescued from the humanitarian crisis off Malaysia's water last year are now languishing in the country's detention centres with no recourse.
According to an Amnesty International study reported by UK newspaper The Guardian, 325 Rohingya refugees and 65 from Bangladesh remain in captivity here despite technically being freed in 2015.
The 390 are among the thousands of people-smuggling victims abandoned and left to die at sea in boats and other makeshift craft last year after their captors fled a crackdown in the region.
The incident triggered an embarrassing crisis as affected countries including Malaysia initially refused to accept the victims, saying they did not recognise the group as refugees and instead sought for them to be returned to their countries of origin.
Although most of the 2,900 that Malaysia eventually accepted have been variously repatriated, resettled and otherwise released, authorities continue to hold the remaining 390 in the Belantik immigration depot in Sik, Kedah.
"One year on, these people who have been through this horrific journey are still being punished, rather than being treated as victims of human trafficking," Khairunissa Dhala, an Amnesty researcher who helped prepare the report, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
Aside from the continued detention, the refugees also face overcrowding at the centre that was previously flagged for its conditions. Filled beyond its capacity, humanitarian groups and lawmakers have cited health concerns in Belantik.
Amnesty's report found that at least one Rohingya woman died in the centre before she was able to be resettled; it also received unconfirmed information on the death of a Bangladeshi inmate at the centre.
"The conditions of [Malaysia's] detention centres are appallingly bad," Dhala was further quoted as saying.
According to The Guardian, Putrajaya did not respond to questions regarding the Amnesty report.
In the crisis last year, an estimated 6,000 to 20,000 migrants fleeing ethnic persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh were left adrift in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca.
In what was dubbed a massive humanitarian disaster by the United Nations, the boat people were believed abandoned by their traffickers with little food or water.
Both Malaysia and Indonesia initially declared that they would turn away any who attempted to land on their territory, but later relented.
Putrajaya's initial refusal to aid the migrants prompted ordinary Malaysians to launch their own missions of mercy to supply them with food, water and medical supplies out at sea.