Homeless fear round-up by Malaysian authorities

Homeless fear round-up by Malaysian authorities
Homeless men sit on a pavement as city dwellers queue for food distributed by Pertiwi Soup Kitchen volunteers in Kuala Lumpur on July 7, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR- For the past six years, Zakri, 38, has been sleeping on the sidewalk along Chow Kit Road without much to fear.

"Some of us have been here so long, even the guards at some buildings keep an eye out for us when we sleep," he said when met at his usual spot here recently.

However, Zakri and the homeless community here are now thinking twice about sleeping openly on the sidewalk facing the main road for fear of being rounded up by the authorities.

"As it is, we are often only able to sleep here after midnight and have to rise before dawn.

"I think our biggest fear is that we do not know how we will be treated if we are to be picked up by the authorities," he said.

Originally from Tampin, Negri Sembilan, Zakri sleeps on the streets because his salary as a shop assistant is not enough to cover rental for a room in the city.

However, under Ops Qaseh, which begins this week around Jalan Imbi, Masjid India, Central Market and the National Mosque, only beggars and vagrants will be targeted.

The large-scale operation is initiated by the Welfare Department under the Women, Family and Com­munity Development Ministry, and is aided by the police, Immigration Department, KL City Hall and National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK).

Those with families to care for them will be sent back, while those above 60 years old who are poor and without families will be placed in welfare homes.

Beggars and vagrants aged below 60 will be sent to Desa Bina Diri shelters-cum-rehabilitation centres, and remain there for three years in accordance with the Destitute Persons Act 1977.

Foreigners picked up during the operation will be handed over to the Immigration Department, while those involved in substance abuse will be sent to AADK.

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