‘Rat lanes’ come alive

Il­le­gals will­ing to brave risky 'es­capes' for Raya sea­son

The Star Malaysia - - Front Page -

The au­thor­i­ties are rac­ing to shut down il­le­gal trails out of Malaysia as mi­grant work­ers be­gin their Raya rush home. But syn­di­cates open up new routes just as quickly, and with limited re­sources to cover our por­ous bor­ders, it’s lit­er­ally a cat and mouse game.

GE­ORGE TOWN: It could be pun­ish­ing, and some­times even lifethreat­en­ing, for In­done­sians to sneak il­le­gally into Malaysia. And when they want to leave, they would have to pay a price to ac­cess se­cure routes home.

A source re­vealed that it could cost an il­le­gal im­mi­grant be­tween RM3,000 and RM5,000 or more to re­turn to In­done­sia.

“The amount paid to agents to co­or­di­nate their ‘es­capes’ via tongkang would largely de­pend on the sea­son when the en­force­ment bod­ies are ac­tive or when there is high de­mand.

“Th­ese work­ers are usu­ally those who have been work­ing il­le­gally here for many years,” said the source.

The source claimed that al­ter­na­tively, the il­le­gal work­ers could go through the le­gal process and sur­ren­der to the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment to be for­mally de­ported home.

“But many of them would rather sneak back to their home­land to avoid be­ing black­listed as they prob­a­bly have plans to come back again,” said the source.

The source noted that th­ese il­le­gal mi­grants were mainly those who had ac­quired enough skills and de­cided to flee from their em­ploy­ers for other jobs with higher salary, or those who had ar­rived as tourists and over­stayed.

The source claimed that the cost to re­turn home il­le­gally could be

Many of them (il­le­gal work­ers) would rather sneak back to their home­land to avoid be­ing black­listed as they prob­a­bly have plans to come back again. Source

just a frac­tion of their earn­ings here in Malaysia since they did not pay any in­come tax or levy.

As Hari Raya draws near, there is a fes­tive rush as mi­grant work­ers join the ex­o­dus to re­turn home to cel­e­brate with their loved ones.

A ren­o­va­tions con­trac­tor said his In­done­sian worker would take long “leave” and al­low him­self to be caught be­fore Hari Raya.

“Then he would will­ingly pay the de­por­ta­tion fine and let him­self be de­ported.

“When he comes back af­ter Raya, he would carry a new pass­port bear­ing a new name on it,” said the con­trac­tor.

An­other con­trac­tor said he had heard stories about mi­grant work­ers’ de­por­ta­tion by sea.

“My work­ers say that when their de­por­ta­tion boat is in the mid­dle of the sea, an­other boat would ar­rive from In­done­sia.

“My work­ers pay the boat cap­tain and get to board the new boat which will take them straight to the vil­lage,” he re­vealed, adding that it had been a reg­u­lar prac­tice for many years.

An en­ter­tain­ment out­let owner said his In­done­sian work­ers would tell him stories of how they would board a fish­ing trawler from a vil­lage in Jo­hor.

“They would hide in a kam­pung house and wait for the agent to tell them when it is safe to go out, which is usu­ally in the mid-af­ter­noon.

“As it is a big trawler that can­not get close to the beach, they would have to wade through the sea to reach the boat.

“They must tie all their be­long­ings tightly in plas­tic bags,” he claimed.

Mean­while, Univer­siti Sains Malaysia crim­i­nol­o­gist As­soc Prof Dr P. Sun­dramoor­thy urged em­ploy­ers to stop hir­ing il­le­gal work­ers as it may af­fect na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Many em­ploy­ers here are will­ing to vi­o­late the law to get cheap labour by hir­ing il­le­gals.

“When they do that, we have no record of th­ese work­ers such as their past crim­i­nal or health records.

“Apart from the po­ten­tial rise in so­cial prob­lems due to crime, we also have to be cau­tious of ter­ror­ist groups.

“They may not com­mit the act here but may be col­lect­ing intelligen­ce for oth­ers, and this is a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity,” he added.

In deal­ing with the large num­ber of il­le­gal work­ers in the coun­try, Sun­dramoor­thy hoped that the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment would be as­sisted by the po­lice, who are pro­fes­sion­ally trained to con­duct en­force­ment.

“The Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment is too small to deal with a large num­ber of il­le­gals, and the num­ber of il­le­gals here is merely an es­ti­mate.

“Per­haps the po­lice, who are pro­fes­sion­ally trained, can be given the au­thor­ity to help with the en­force­ment,” he said.

In Kangar, Perlis Border Se­cu­rity Agency (Ak­sem) com­man­der DSP Syed Basri Syed Ali said it was not pos­si­ble for In­done­sian im­mi­grants to use the rat trails in the state to slip out of the coun­try.

“The rat trails are lo­cated at the perime­ter fenc­ing bor­der­ing Malaysia and Thai­land, which is heav­ily guarded by the Gen­eral Op­er­a­tion Force. There is no way they would want to use this route.

“So far, we do not have records of il­le­gal In­done­sian im­mi­grants en­ter­ing or leav­ing the north­ern border in Perlis,” he said when con­tacted yes­ter­day.

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