DANGEROUS ‘TOURISTS’ DUMPED IN MALAYSIA
Foreign fighters denied entry into Syria are increasingly being ‘dumped’ in Malaysia
NO fewer than 30 foreigners intending to fight alongside the Islamic State were stopped from entering Syria and sent to Malaysia.
But the countries that deported these ‘high-risk’ individuals did not notify the Malaysian authorities beforehand. These malcontents could be roaming anywhere in the country.
MALAYSIA has been made the “unwitting” receiver of foreign fighters who were stopped from entering Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State.
Counterterrorism operatives have been scouring the ground, with little intelligence help to tackle the growing number of these individuals, whose travel status is marked as “tourists”.
The New Straits Times was told that these individuals, including some flagged as “high risk”, had earlier been detained at airports in several countries for their “potential risk to national security”.
It is understood that Malaysia would be the destination of choice as it offered visa-free travel to a host of nations.
Sources revealed to this newspaper that there were no fewer than 30 known “unwanted tourists” who had been “dumped” in the country.
Intelligence operatives, who have since been besieged by the problem, have managed to trace 28 foreigners, whose presence in this country was initially not by choice.
“We don’t know who exactly they are, but they were not supposed to be sent to Malaysia.
“The normal procedure is, for example, if you had flown from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and were arrested in Jakarta, the authorities must deport you to Singapore as that was the last point of disembarkation, not Kuala Lumpur,” a source said.
“The problem is that these foreigners departed from all parts of the world — Dubai, Singapore, Indonesia — before being arrested in Istanbul, Turkey. Instead of being deported to their last port of disembarkation, they were given the ‘option’ to be deported to Malaysia.
“We have become a dumping ground and this is likely because, not only are we a visa-free nation to visit for many countries, we are also a Muslim nation.”
The source also let the NST in on a related problem that the country’s antiterrorism operatives were facing.
Some of the countries that wanted to rid their soil of these persona non grata, the source said, “would even assist these “unwanted tourists” to obtain travel documents so that they could enter Malaysia as tourists.
“Worst still, these individuals, whose plans to join IS were thwarted, are now in the country and have stayed off the radar.
“There were several instances where they did alert the Malaysian authorities of such ‘deportations’ but it would be well after these individuals had entered the country. It is not easy for the police to trace them.”
The source also revealed that among those sent over had been labelled by these countries’ intelligence agencies as “dangerous”.
The source added that police had traced and deported them to their home countries, although many more were staying put here.
“Wisma Putra should also at least be informed if these foreign governments were planning to deport these unwelcomed individuals to Malaysia. This is the standard international protocol for cases like these... But they, too, were not informed, what more the other relevant authorities.”
The NST learnt that an informal objection has been lodged with one of the countries known to have frequently deported foreign nationals they arrested for security reasons to Malaysia.
Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counterterrorism Division principal assistant director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, when asked for comments, said the presence of these individuals in the country posed a significant risk to national security.
“This trend is extremely dangerous since we know that these people were denied entry into these countries because they had wanted to join the IS.
“So, there is always the possibility that they would look for a chance to plan an attack here since their aim to go to Syria had been foiled.
“This is why it is important for these foreign authorities to inform us before they deport anyone to our country.”
Ayob said to date, 11 Malaysians had been deported from Turkey for attempting to sneak into Syria to join the global terror group.
Counterterrorism operatives have traced and deported foreign nationals whose presence in this country poses a threat to national security.
Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay