Officials say six Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar died after being struck by automobiles on a Malaysian highway as hundreds left an immigration detention centre where a riot broke out early on Wednesday.
The immigration service claimed in a statement that 582 Rohingya fled the Sungai Bakap temporary immigration detention centre in northern Penang state by smashing down doors and barrier grills, however 362 have since been re-arrested.
Malaysia, which does not recognize refugee status, has long been a popular destination for ethnic Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar’s persecution or Bangladesh’s refugee camps.
Thousands have been taken up and held in overcrowded detention centres since 2020, according to Malaysian officials, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In a live-streamed news conference, Kedah state police chief Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad informed reporters that two men, two women, a boy, and a girl were murdered after being hit by vehicles while attempting to cross a highway around 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the prison centre.
The camp housed 664 Rohingya refugees, including 137 children, prior to the incident.