Hundreds of Rohingya escape detention in Malaysia, six dead

Hundreds of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar escaped from a detention center in northern Malaysia on Wednesday and six died on a highway while escaping, authorities said.

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Many Rohingya arrive in Malaysia by boat after enduring months of harrowing sea voyages. Those who are caught are often sent to detention centers, which human rights groups say are often overcrowded and dirty.

A total of 528 Muslim minority people fled a center in Kedah state as of 4:30 am (2030 GMT Tuesday), the country’s immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud said.

“A total of 362 detainees have been rearrested. The search for the remaining detainees continues,” he said in a statement.

They broke down a gate and barriers at the temporary immigration center, he added.

Six of the detainees died as they tried to cross a road after escaping, Penang state police chief Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain said.

The dead were two adult men, two adult women, a girl and a boy, he said.

Police, other agencies and the public are searching for the detainees who are still missing.

Muslim-majority and relatively affluent Malaysia is a key destination for Rohingya fleeing persecution in their predominantly Buddhist homeland or in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

More than 100,000 Rohingya live on the fringes of society in the country, working illegally in construction and other low-paid jobs.

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