Tuesday, 1 February, 2005

Confusion over Malaysia crackdown

Malaysia has apparently delayed a major crackdown on hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
The authorities were expected to arrest and deport undocumented foreigners after an amnesty deadline expired at midnight (1600 GMT on Monday).
Local newspapers report that the move was postponed after a request from Indonesia and the Philippines.
A spokesman for Malaysia's home ministry told the BBC officials were awaiting clear instructions.
The deputy prime minister is expected to issue a statement, says the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur.
Many immigrants on Monday queued at ports and airports to leave Malaysia before the amnesty expired.
Illegal workers - mostly Indonesian, Filipino and also from the Indian sub-continent - could now face long jail terms, fines of thousands of dollars and whipping with a cane.
Estimates have put the number of undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia at up to 1.5 million.
The Star and the New Straits Times newspapers cited anonymous immigrations officers as saying they had received orders not to proceed with the crackdown.
The Star newspaper also quoted Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia as saying Jakarta had asked for the extension of the amnesty.
A letter with such a request from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to be delivered to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday.
Officials in the Philippines reportedly also said they wanted a one-month extension.
Thousands of police and civilian volunteers have been drafted into a campaign to round up foreigners without the right papers.
Officers were expected to be inspecting building sites, plantations, factories, restaurants and even private homes with domestic servants to try to arrest them. Illegal immigrants are widely blamed for rising crime.
Though the government says the operation to arrest illegal immigrants will be carried out humanely, campaigners say the authorities do not have the means to properly control so many poorly trained volunteers.
Human rights activists say the confusion only serves to illustrate their concerns.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"