For­eign fight­ers de­nied en­try into Syria are in­creas­ingly be­ing ‘dumped’ in Malaysia

New Straits Times - - Front Page - RE­PORTS BY ALIZA SHAH

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

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