Police are investigating the cause of a riot at a detention centre in northern Malaysia after more than 500 refugees escaped.

Malaysia has long been a favoured destination for ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Malaysia has long been a favoured destination for ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh. ()

At least six Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including two children, have died after being hit by vehicles on a Malaysian highway as hundreds fled an immigration detention centre.

Penang police chief Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain told local media that the six victims died while trying to cross the highway on Tuesday. 

He was quoted as saying the victims were two men, two women, a boy and a girl. 

A total of 528 people from the Muslim minority group fled a centre in Kedah state at 4:30 am (2030 GMT), the country's immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud said.

They broke down doors and barrier grills, though 362 have since been found, he added.

Police said they were still investigating the cause of Wednesday's riot, while authorities searched for the remaining refugees who had fled.

Since 2020, however, thousands have been housed in detention centres as part of what Malaysian authorities say are efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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

READ MORE: Rohingya genocide: Why the U.S take so long to recognise it?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies