Use Alternatives to Detention in the Fight Against COVID-19

By United Nations in Malaysia.

May 2, 2020

The UN welcomes the statement by the Ministry of Health late yesterday, that all foreigners, documented or otherwise will receive the same medical treatment as any other patient.


This is in line with the Government of Malaysia’s positive announcement in March that screening and treatment for all foreigners, regardless of their immigration status, will be provided free of charge during the Movement Control Order (MCO). It took time to build the confidence of the part of the population who are undocumented to come forward. The Government’s public statements and reassurance were instrumental.


Inclusive and non-discriminatory policies are essential to strengthen the response and recovery from Covid-19. Every person, especially the most vulnerable – including migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and the stateless should have access to health services and assistance without fear of negative repercussions.  

Yesterday, reports emerged of large-scale arrests of undocumented migrants taking place in various Enhanced Movement Control Order locations. It is of grave concern that the arrests include people in situations of enhanced vulnerability, such as families with very young children.

The fear of arrest and detention may push these vulnerable population groups further into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment, with negative consequences for their own health and creating further risks to the spreading of COVID-19 to others.

As reiterated by the UN Secretary General`s appeal ‘the world is only as strong as its weakest link’; and what applies to countries also applies to communities within countries.

In line with Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and with the “Leaving no one behind” commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, all States parties must ensure that the welfare of the most vulnerable, including migrant communities, are indeed not left behind in this fight against the virus.

This means to implement as a matter of priority non-custodial and community-based alternatives to detention, and where relevant to avoid immigration detention all together. Overcrowded conditions in immigration detention centres carry a high risk of increasing Covid-19 infection among both detainees and staff. It is especially important to prioritise the release of all children and their caregivers from immigration detention.

Covid-19 does not discriminate. Equally we should not discriminate in our fight to end Covid-19. We all must ensure that nobody is left behind.

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Professor Pascale Allotey

Director of UNU-IIGH

Professor Pascale Allotey is the Director of the United Nations University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH). With a multidisciplinary background in clinical health sciences, anthropology, and epidemiology, she has two decades of experience as a researcher in global health across four continents to promote health and well-being. Her research has focussed on health equity, health and human rights, gender and social determinants of health, forced migration and marginalisation, sexual and reproductive health, infectious diseases, and non- communicable diseases.

She is also a technical advisor on several WHO committees in Geneva, including serving as co-Chair of the Gender and Rights Advisory Panel; a member of the Technical Advisory Group on Universal Health Coverage for the WHO Western Pacific Region office in Manila; and Advisor to the WHO TDR Expert Group Meeting on Gender and Intersectionality in Research on Infectious Diseases of Poverty.

She holds a PhD in Public Health and a MMedSci degree in Community Health from the University of Western Australia. She has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles, and more than forty book chapters and commissioned reports.



Firas Shaker AbdelRazzak Mihyar

Security Advisor

UNDSS Malaysia is headed by Mr. Firas Shaker AbdelRazzak Mihyar since Oct 2018. Firas has been working with the United Nations since 1997 and prior to that with Ministry of Internal and Foreign Affairs of Jordan.

He is a security expert, having served in several positions with United nations in most demanding humanitarian emergency and civil unrest UN missions Angola, Congo, Lesotho, Maseru, Zimbabwe, Angola, Algeria, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Kurdistan Iraq.

Firas holds master’s in international law, Diplomacy and International Relations, a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Law and a Diploma in Law Enforcement / Police Science College Jordan. While an Arabic native speaker, Firas is fluent in both English and Portuguese.


Skype: firasmihyar


Noni Mafabune

GSSU Director for Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Copenhagen

Noni Mafabune is the GSSU Director for Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Copenhagen and is based in KL. The GSSU provides administrative transactional and compliance services to 170 countries and other UN agencies in Finance, Human Resources (including Payroll) and Procurement.

Noni joined the UNDP Global Shared Service Centre in 2017. Since joining UNDP, Noni was the Project Team Lead in developing and designing a robust business case to expand the services the GSSU administers to its clients in line with the UN 2030 Reform Agenda which seeks to consolidate the operational support services at the country office level.

Prior to joining UNDP, Noni worked at the WHO GSC as the Chief, Global Financial Services based in KL. During her time at the WHO GSC, Noni led in the attainment of the highly esteemed ACCA accreditation and ISO 9000 certification. Under her leadership WHO has now ventured into Robotics and implemented an automated invoice processing system.


Prior to joining WHO, Noni worked for UNICEF, New York as part of the team that implemented IPSAS and VISION(SAP). Prior to the UN, Noni held several senior Finance positions in The Coca-Cola Company, in Canada and Central Africa.

Noni is a Chartered Public Financial Accountant(UK) and holds a Masters in Financial Management and Accountancy from Keller Graduate School, USA.



Sylvie Bétemps Cochin

Senior Trade Promotion Officer Office for Asia and The Pacific


Jeremy Douglas

Regional Representative 
Southeast Asia and the Pacific

Jeremy Douglas is the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific overseeing and managing operations and strategy from Myanmar to the Pacific in the areas of the rule of law, non-traditional security threats, law enforcement, criminal justice and drug-related supply and health issues. He is also the UNODC liaison to China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia and to regional organisations including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). Prior to his appointment as Regional Representative SEAP, he was the UNODC Representative in Pakistan from September 2009 – April 2013.


Isabelle Louis, Ph.D.

Deputy Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific Office

Isabelle has been Deputy Regional Director at UNEP’s Asia Pacific since September 2014.  She has more than 25 years of global, regional and national level experience in sustainable development and natural resource management as well as in office operations, programme management, multi-stakeholder engagement and multidisciplinary team management.

In her role, she coordinates the UNEP’s work programme in the region pursuant to the organization’s mandate to support the UN Member States in the region on issues related to the environment, sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals. She also facilitates UNEP’s strategic partnerships in the region and represents UNEP in the UN Country Teams for Malaysia Myanmar and Thailand.


Prior to joining UNEP, she was the Regional Director of the Asia Pacific Programme for WWF International, based in Switzerland and Singapore, and Deputy Executive Director at WWF Malaysia.

Isabelle, a Malaysian national, has a scientific background in Botany and Plant Pathology. She received her BSc and PhD from Sheffield University in the United Kingdom, followed by a Teaching Fellowship at the National University of Singapore and a Post Doctorate Fellowship at Harvard University.


Address: 2nd Floor, UN Building, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


Shahbaz Khan

Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau

Shahbaz Khan is the Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and Representative to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.

He is a Fellow, Chartered Engineer and Engineering Executive of Engineers Australia, Hon Fellow of Institution of Engineers, Malaysia, Fellow of the ASEAN Academy of Engineers, Hon Fellow of the Myanmar Engineering Society and Fellow of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand. Mr Khan has worked in Australia, France, Indonesia and Pakistan in various research, consultancy and policy positions. Before joining UNESCO, he was Professor and Director at the Charles Sturt University, Research Director Irrigation Systems at CSIRO and Programme Leader, System Harmonisation for Regional Irrigation Business Partnerships at the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures, Australia. His work has been widely recognised e.g. 2019 China Friendship Award, Great Wall Friendship Award China 2017, FEIAP Engineer of the Year Award 2016, UNESCO Team Award for Managing Hydro Hazards 2009, Land and Water Australia’s Eureka Prize 2007 and CSIRO Medal 2007. He has widely published in the area of water, environment and sustainable development and received several outstanding publications awards.



Ye Yu Shwe

UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Dr Ye Yu Shwe is currently serving as UNAIDS Country Focal Point for Malaysia since August 2019 and he is the Regional Advisor for Epidemiology and Response Monitoring at the UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. He is one of the long serving core team members of UNAIDS regional data platform, HIV and AIDS Data Hub for Asia and the Pacific since 2012.

As a public health specialist, he has more than 15 years of in-country and international experience in both clinical and programmatic aspects of HIV and health response; conducting surveys and research; modelling, estimation and strategic information generation for evidence informed advocacy, policy and response; and national and regional level partnerships and coordination in public health and development sectors.

Before joining UNAIDS, he worked with UNICEF East-Asia and Pacific Regional Office, International Rescue Committee, World Vision Foundation of Thailand, and Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières International) in Myanmar. He is graduated as a medical doctor and holds master’s degree in Population and Reproductive Health Research.


Cynthia Veliko

Ms. Cynthia Veliko has worked across the UN system since 1999. She has served with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) since March 2006 as Human Rights Advisor in three countries – Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and was appointed in August 2017 as Regional Representative to OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia. Ms. Veliko has worked on human rights issues in the context of development, armed conflict and natural disasters. Prior to joining OHCHR, Ms. Veliko worked for five years at WHO for the Polio Eradication Initiative, supporting the global polio partners and governments and UNCTs in South Asia and Africa. Ms. Veliko began her work with the UN in 1999 with the Department of Political Affairs where she was assigned to the Cyprus proximity talks in New York and then deployed to Haiti for the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000.


Ms. Rinas


Ms. Rinas was appointed by the Director-General as Head of Office representing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from May 2018. Her service includes seven years in IOM with postings as Head of Office, Damak, Nepal, and Head of Refugee Resettlement for South Asia, also based in Nepal. Prior to joining IOM she was with the Resettlement Support Center, Africa for six years, based in Nairobi, Kenya as Operations Coordinator, the Country Coordinator in N’djamena, Chad, and Processing Supervisor in Accra, Ghana. 

Ms. Rinas holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University, School of Business, and a B.A. in Political Science and Religion from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, U.S.A.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.



Carlos Miguel Melendez Orbegoso

Head of WFP-UNHRD Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mr. Carlos Melendez was appointed by the World Food Programme (WFP) to head the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Malaysia from August 2016.  He was born in Peru and is an industrial engineer.  Before joining WFP, Mr Melendez has worked in various factories (food, poultry processing, wood, textiles) in Peru and Bolivia in production and logistics.

With WFP, Mr Melendez has over 27 years of experience in field. He has worked in Angola, Sudan, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Panama.  Mr. Melendez last posting before UNHRD was the Regional Logistics Officer for Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  During this time, he managed the logistics operations in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan.  Amongst other missions, Mr. Melendez also organized the first preposition in Juba, after the independence when the northern corridor was closed.

Mr. Melendez has delivered training courses in warehouse management, transport contracting, introduction to humanitarian supply chain (IHSC) and other logistics related areas to hundreds of participants in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe; including supply chain courses to postgraduate students of Fordham University.

Mr. Melendez holds an Industrial Engineering degree from the Universidad Catolica del Peru.  He is married and has one daughter.







Stefan Priesner

UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam

Stefan has extensive experience in international development and management issues and has been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1996.

He has provided policy advice to Governments and overseen the formulation and delivery of a range of complex, multi-disciplinary development programmes in close partnership with government, bilateral, multi-lateral and other partners in various countries in the Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe.

Before this assignment, he was the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for the Republic of Uzbekistan from January 2013 through April 2017 followed by UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam from May 2017 through November 2018.

He also served the United Nations as UNDP Country Director in Bangladesh from September 2008-December 2012. In this function, Mr. Priesner was responsible for leading one of UNDP’s largest development operations globally in terms of oversight of programming, accountability as well as building relations with the government and other key partners.
Prior to joining UNDP Bangladesh, Mr. Priesner was the Deputy Resident Representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2004-2008). He also worked as Deputy Chief of UNDP’s Subregional Resource Facility (SURF) for the Caribbean in Trinidad/Tobago (2001) as well as for South and West Asia in Nepal (2001-2004). During these three years, he led advisory missions to more than a dozen countries in the Asia/Pacific. In his early days with UNDP, Mr. Priesner served in Bhutan as the Head of the Governance Unit, during which he contributed substantively in consolidating UNDP’s governance programme. Before joining UNDP, Mr. Priesner worked in the private sector.

Mr. Priesner holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Law from the University of Vienna.


UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working without broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.


UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


Marianne Clark-Hattingh

UNICEF Representative, Malaysia

Marianne Clark-Hattingh assumed leadership of the UNICEF Malaysia country office in January 2016.

She joins the country office with vast experience in child protection, change management and social policy development. She brings to her role sound expertise in child rights, capacity building and results-based management.

Driven by her commitment to ensuring a world fit for children, Clark-Hattingh first began her career in China and Thailand before joining UNICEF in Madagascar. She has since worked at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York and held progressively senior management positions in Guinea Conakry, Benin, and Somalia as well as with the UN staff college in Turin, Italy.

Clark-Hattingh holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and International Relations and earned her Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics, specialising in Social Policy and Development. She is a British and French national.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. Our mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


In the Asia and Pacific region, UNEP supports member countries to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific. Within the Framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and UNEP’s medium-term strategy 2018-2021, UNEP  is informed by relevant resolutions and decisions of the United Nations Environment Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly; and by the strategies and plans of multilateral environmental agreements and other internationally agreed environmental goals.


Across Asia and the Pacific, UNEP is facilitating its leadership role on environment and sustainability in the United Nations system with partners including other intergovernmental organisations. UNEP’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific is in Bangkok, Thailand.


UNU International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) is the designated UN think tank on global health. The Institute serves as a policy translation hub for UN member states, agencies, and programmes on global health challenges within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Mohammad Naciri

Regional Director of UN Women Asia

Mohammad NACIRI has been appointed as the Regional Director of UN Women for Asia and the Pacific. From 2015 to 2018, he was the Regional Director of UN Women in the Arab States. From 2012 to 2015, Mohammad Naciri was the Deputy Regional Director for UN Women in the Arab States. Mohammad has extensive experience in the region and in gender and development issues. Prior to joining UN Women,

Mohammad was the Deputy Country Director of UNDP in Yemen, where he supported the country in the formulation of its Gender Strategy and the Gender Responsive Budgeting process. He has worked in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Cambodia, dealing with issues from human trafficking to ethnic cleansing.

A national of Morocco, Mohammad holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and International Development from the Harvard University, as well as a master’s degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford. He also has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Alexandria-Egypt.



UNHRD is a network of depots located in Ghana, Italy, UAE, Malaysia, Spain, and Panama that procures, manages and transports emergency supplies for the humanitarian community.  The UNHRD in Kuala Lumpur supports in emergency preparedness and response in Asia. Additionally, UNHRD also hosts a variety of trainings that provide participants with first-hand, practical emergency response experience. The depot was built in 2012 and is generously made available by the Government of Malaysia.


We are building a better, healthier future for people all over the world.


UNDP-Global Shared Services Unit provides UNDP offices worldwide with financial transactional services in the areas of Revenue Management, HQ and CO deposit creation and application, assets management, Bank to Book Reconciliation, External agencies services, cash management, Inventory Certification, travel & expenses reconciliation, position management, pension administration, vouchers, vendors, paycycle and local payroll.

We use our skills in finance, accounting and other areas of finance to support UNDP’s programmes in various countries around the world with a view to eradicating poverty.


ITC is the only development agency that is fully dedicated to supporting the internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ITC enables SMEs in developing countries to become more competitive and connect to international markets, raising incomes and creating job opportunities, especially for women, young people, and poor communities.


UNODC provides advice and technical assistance related to the rule of law, non-traditional security threats, law enforcement, criminal justice and drug-related supply and health issues, including human trafficking and migrant smuggling, drug and wildlife trafficking, improving justice and prison systems, and addressing cybercrime and corruption.


UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

The UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) which is located in Bangkok (Thailand), covers 42 countries in the Asia and the Pacific, and provides managerial oversight, policy advisory and technical support UN Women’s offices in 22 countries across the region.


UNHRD is a network of depots located in Ghana, Italy, UAE, Malaysia, Spain, and Panama that procures, manages and transports emergency supplies for the humanitarian community.  The UNHRD in Kuala Lumpur supports in emergency preparedness and response in Asia. Additionally, UNHRD also hosts a variety of trainings that provide participants with first-hand, practical emergency response experience. The depot was built in 2012 and is generously made available by the Government of Malaysia.


UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.


The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.


UNIDO aims to eradicate poverty through inclusive and sustainable industrial development


UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO Office in Jakarta functions as the Regional Sciences Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and a cluster office to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.


UNAIDS is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. UNAIDS has a vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, and a principle of leaving no one behind.


OHCHR’s South-East Asia Office is the regional representation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The office covers Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore Thailand, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam. The Office’s mission is to promote and protect human rights across the region.


The Department of Safety and Security is responsible for providing leadership, operational support and oversight of the security management system, ensure the maximum security for staff and eligible dependants as well as enable the safest and most efficient conduct of the programmes and activities of the United Nations System.


The International Organization for Migration is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. As the leading organization for migration, IOM acts with its partners in the international community.


Niloy Banerjee

UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam

Niloy is a development economist with specialization in effective institutions and capacity development. He previously led the UN System Affairs Group in UNDP, based in New York. In this position he led UNDP’s interface with UN agencies, funds and programmes, and with Member States in the arena of intergovernmental affairs. He has also led UNDP’s engagement in the round of UN reforms.

In previous assignments, he has been the Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Development Group; and Team Leader and Policy Advisor of Asia-Pacific – all for the Bureau for Development Policy in UNDP. He is highly familiar with the region, having been a regional policy advisor who supported countries in Asia-Pacific, and set up of the Singapore Policy Center for UNDP.

Niloy has a Masters in Economics from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and is a Fellow of the City University of New York.