26 May 2015

Malaysia graves: grim secrets of trafficking camps revealed

Channel 4 News along with photo-journalist Raul Gallego Abellan travel deep into the jungle to the Malaysian trafficking camps after mass graves were uncovered along the border.

Police and forensic teams in Malaysia began pulling out the remains of dozens of suspected victims of human traffickers on Tuesday from shallow graves, discovered at a jungle camp near the border.

(Photograph credit Raul Gallego Abellan)

Malaysian authorities discovered signs of torture and imprisonment near the village of Wang Kelian, where at least 28 camps linked to human trafficking were found on Friday.

(Photograph credit Raul Gallego Abellan)

Authorities announced that 139 graves, located across more than two dozen suspected human trafficking camps, contained several bodies.

Channel 4 News were among a group of journalists taken to one of the camps, where the first body was removed on Tuesday afternoon.

Muhammad Bahar Elias of the Royal Malaysian Police force said: “The forensics have now finished excavating the first site and have found one human body so far. Officer Izwan from the forensics team confirmed this, so we will take the remains to the nearest hospital for a post mortem.”

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Malaysian border police said the situation was “so sad” because “everybody knew what was happening on the Thailand-Malaysian border”.

(Photograph credit Raul Gallego Abellan)

Most of the migrants, held for ransom, are believed to be members of Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority and impoverished migrants from Bangladesh.

The government said it was investigating whether local forestry officials were involved with the people-smuggling gangs believed responsible for such graves discovered in the country’s northwest.

Joel Millman, of the International Organisation for Migration, told a press briefing in Geneva that he predicted “hundreds of bodies” would be found.

(Photograph credit Raul Gallego Abellan)

The camps are said to be similar to those discovered on the Thai border, where 32 bodies were discovered.

Read more: Fifty Thai police 'punished' over trafficking camp discovery

More than 50 police officers were moved away from the area over suspected links to trafficking networks.

After the crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

(Photograph credit Raul Gallego Abellan)

Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to end their policy of pushing migrants boats back out to sea on Wednesday, and instead said they will provide temporary shelter to thousands stranded at sea.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimated on Friday that some 3,500 migrants were still stranded on overloaded boats with dwindling supplies, and repeated its appeal for the region’s governments to rescue them.