Published on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 19:55 Written by Khin Sett Maw
Malaysian authorities have been in search of illegal migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. (Photo-AFP)
Hundreds of Myanmar workers have been arrested after the Malaysian authorities launched a nation-wide crackdown on illegal immigrants on Sunday.
The three-month operation was announced in advance and is led by the Immigration Department and involves 135,000 personnel from various government bodies including the police and armed forces, according to the Star newspaper.
The authorities started conducting raids mainly in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Johor which have been identified main areas for illegal immigrants.
Kepong Funeral Service Society Chairman San Win said on Monday that about 300 Myanmar nationals have been arrested in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Kepong area since August 31.
"This crackdown was announced in the Malaysian newspapers since August 1. The arrests started in Penang on August 31. On August 31, about 50 Myanmar nationals were arrested. On September 1, six truckloads of Myanmar nationals were arrested in front of the Kotaraya shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur," said San Win.
He added that Myanmar immigrants who were arrested in Kuala Lumpur are now detained at Dang Wangi Police Station and Sentul Police Station, but he does not know where Myanmar immigrants are detained in Penang and their current conditions.
"The Myanmar Embassy has not released any official announcement. As far as I know, around 200 to 300 Myanmar workers have been arrested within two days," said Thiha Maung Maung from Thidagu Aid Group that has been assisting Myanmar workers in Malaysia.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the press on Monday that 2,433 detainees were among approximately 8,000 people examined by authorities in dozens of operations that began Sunday.
Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama reported that the authorities have detained 717 Indonesian nationals, 555 Myanmar nationals, 387 Bangladeshi nationals and 229 Nepali nationals. He said authorities also detained immigrants from Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, China, Nigeria and Thailand.
Many illegal Myanmar workers are now in hiding while others fear that they will also be arrested because the police have been arresting both illegal workers as well as those with legal permits, according to Yamin Khin, a social worker who has been assisting Myanmar workers in Malaysia.
"Now, [the authorities] are arresting workers with legal permits. The workers are being arrested if they are not staying at the addresses mentioned in the permits. If they are working in other restaurants instead of the factory address on the permit, they get arrested. Myanmar workers are now hiding in where they think is safe. Some are hiding in the forests," said Yamin Khin.
All the arrested immigrants are kept together and while other embassies have come to meet their citizens and picked them up, the Myanmar embassy has not come to meet the workers and only social organisations have coming to meet them, she added.
"The authorities have already informed about the crackdown through the TV channels and newspapers. The workers will be released if they have documents. As this is being done in accord with Malaysian law, the Myanmar embassy and the labour organisation do not have the right to interfere," said Soe Win, Myanmar labour attache in Malaysia.
He added that it was difficult to confirm the exact number of Myanmar workers currently being detained in the round-up that includes illegal workers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Laos.
"We still haven't received any help from the Myanmar Embassy in Malaysia. They are arresting everyone whether they have documents or not. We don't know when the workers with documents will be released. The last time workers were arrested, it took at least three weeks even though the employers went there for the release of their workers with documents," said Yamin Khin.
Currently, Myanmar embassy charges 500 Ringgit (US$ 151) for adults and 100 Ringgit (US$ 30) for children for issuing certificate of identity for those who want to return back to Myanmar.
Social organisations including Thidagu Aid Group and Ayeyawady Foundation have been providing assistance for Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia.
The majority of illegal immigrants in Malaysia are from Indonesia, followed by Myanmar nationals in the second place according to the Malaysian news agency. An estimated 700,000 Myanmar workers are currently in Malaysia and eighty percent of them are illegal immigrants.
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