NIBONG TEBAL: Hundreds of Rohingya who fled the Sungai Bakap Immigration Detention Depot on Wednesday (April 20) walked barefoot for over than two hours, according to witnesses.

Recounting the dramatic moment, the witness who wanted to be known as Nathan, 48, said he arrived at his oil palm plantation after being informed by his employees who lived in the plantation, and witnessed for himself that all the foreigners were heading to the North-South Expressway (PLUS) to escape from the depot.

“It was obvious to see that the foreigners were walking fast and some running through the area here. I managed to ask them and a Rohingya man informed me that the group including many children had walked more than two hours from the depot.

“I saw them walking without any shoes because they wanted to run away while some had their feet injured due to missteps walking in the forest and undergrowth,” he said when met here on Wednesday.

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He said the Rohingya also informed him that they were depressed being detained at the depot.

Another witness, Muhamad Nursyamsuddin Che Adni, 29, who lives near the depot, said he and four friends took the initiative to help members of the Malaysian Volunteer Department (Rela) chase the escaped detainees and managed to detain several individuals.

“We also (managed) to shout at those who ran towards the highway not to cross but were ignored before six of them were hit by a vehicle at about 6am,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Bernama survey at the depot found there were many immigration vans that entered the area to send back detainees who had been recaptured.

The forensic team and Canine Unit (K9) of the Royal Malaysia Police were also seen probing the oil palm plantations and nearby forests as they could not rule out the possibility of detainees still hiding in the area.

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In Kedah, Kedah Malaysian Rohingya Association chairman Yusof Ali when asked to comment on the incident, hoped that the government would find a solution regarding Rohingya refugees.

This, according to him, was because most of them have been cooped up in detention depots for far too long.

“They have been detained for a very long time, so they must want to be free. Some among those detained have United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cards but why were they not released?” he posed when contacted by Bernama.

Earlier on Wednesday, a total of 528 Rohingya detainees escaped from the Sungai Bakap Immigration Detention Depot at about 4.30am and as of 8pm, 351 refugees were re-arrested and police are searching for escapees still at large.

Meanwhile, six Rohingyas died when hit by a vehicle while crossing KM 168 of the PLUS Highway heading south near Jawi, Penang. – Bernama