10:07 PM, September 03, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:11 PM, September 03, 2018

Malaysia crackdown on illegal migrants

Migrant worker in Malaysia drowns in river fleeing detention

21 Bangladeshis among 40 held today

A migrant worker today drowned in Malaysia’s Malacca river as he tried to escape detention by the country’s immigration department that began a nationwide crackdown against undocumented migrants since September 1.

During a raid in the state of Melaka, the construction worker jumped into the estuary of Malacca river around 1:00pm.

Fire fighters later recovered the body around 3:30pm and sent it to a hospital for autopsy, said Malaysian immigration department in a Facebook post today.

A total of 40 illegal migrants, including 21 Bangladeshis, were detained during the drive today. Other nationals detained were from Indonesia, India and Myanmar.

Earlier on September 1, a Bangladeshi worker was injured as immigration police conducted a raid at a gloves factory in Sepang area in Kuala Lumpur.

The new Malaysian government began the major crackdown following the end of an amnesty programme, which had given chance to the undocumented migrants to return home by paying money worth Tk 8,000, in a bid to free the country of undocumented migrants. 

On September 1, Malaysian police launched the nationwide crackdown and detained over 500 undocumented foreign workers. The exact total number of arrests and the nationalities of the detainees in the last three days could not be known, but migrants said a good number of those held are Bangladeshis.  

An estimated one million Bangladeshis work in Malaysia, and nearly 50 percent of them are undocumented. During the regularisation programme for last two years, most of them had applied for legalisation, but many of them have not had their documents updated, the migrants and activists said.

They said many of the agents have taken money but then disappeared without delivering the updated documents.

The irregular workers, amid the ruthless campaign against illegal migrants, are living in constant fear.

Tariqul Islam, a migrant from Cyberjaya, told this correspondent today he knows some 200 to 300 migrants working in that area are living in the jungles at night in fear of police arrest.

“Some are even shunning jobs and remaining in the rooms. We are in constant fear,” he said.

Rights groups have called for the Malaysian government to halt the crackdown against the migrants, but punish the agents and employers who abused the workers.

“Many of the undocumented workers are actually victims of human trafficking. Malaysian authorities should take legal actions against the human traffickers, not the victims,” said Adrian Pereira, executive director of rights group North South Initiative based in Kuala Lumpur.

Bangladesh High Commissioner in Malaysia Shahidul Islam or Labour Counsellor Sayedul Islam could not be contacted despite repeated attempts to learn if they would negotiate with the Malaysian authorities for any opportunity of amnesty.