Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia to send navy for workers

CRACKDOWN Malaysia's nearly 200,000 illegal immigrants, mostly from Indonesia, have until January to leave the country -- ? or face arrest


Indonesia's navy plans to send four ships to Malaysia to bring home Indonesians ahead of a crackdown on illegal migrants, news reports said yesterday.

Amnesty period

Malaysia has offered amnesty to illegal migrants, many of them Indonesians, that allows them to leave the country by Dec. 31 without punishment.

The government has said it expects about 200,000 illegal workers to leave voluntarily by the end of the amnesty period.

Nearly 178,000 illegal migrants, mostly from Indonesia, have so far returned home, Ishak Mohamad, a senior immigration officer, told The Star newspaper.

Ishak said Indonesia will send four naval vessels to fetch its citizens.

The ships, which can carry up to 5,000 people each, will depart from Port Klang, north of Kuala Lumpur over four days starting Monday.

Officials estimate some 1 million people from poor neighboring countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines work illegally in Malaysia -- one of Southeast Asia's richest nations.

Malaysia has warned of a massive crackdown to arrest, punish and deport illegal migrants starting in January.

Whipping by cane

The government has said those caught will face prison sentences of up to five years, fines and whipping with a rattan cane before they are deported.

However, The Star quoted Deputy Home Minister Tan Chai Ho as saying the government may just fine and deport migrants to avoid overcrowding at detention centers.

``Imposing compounds may be a faster way of sending them back,'' The Star quoted Tan as saying.

He said it costs Malaysia 3 ringgit (US$0.78) daily per person to keep illegal migrants at detention centers.

Officials were not immediately available for comment.

Malaysia offered a similar amnesty in 2002, when more than 300,000 illegal foreign workers -- mostly Indonesians and Filipinos -- left voluntarily or were expelled.

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