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Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Malaysia cracks down on migrants
Police arrest a woman and her family outside a UN office
Indonesians were among those taken away
Malaysian authorities have detained more than 100 suspected illegal foreign workers within hours of a controversial crackdown coming into force.

The new laws, which came into effect at midnight, provide for whipping and prison terms for migrants without permits.

Foreign workers wait to leave Malaysia
Thousands of people waited for outgoing ferries before the deadline
Correspondents say at least 300,000 illegal foreign workers remain in Malaysia, though an amnesty has been extended so no action will be taken against those with confirmed tickets to leave by the end of the month.

Two-thirds of the illegal foreign workers are thought to be Indonesian. Most of the rest come from Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, Malaysia's High Commission in London said.

It was not immediately clear if charges would be brought against the 135 people arrested mostly outside a United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur where they wanted to claim asylum.

A police spokesman said that decision would be taken by immigration officials.

"They are mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar [Burma], Acehnese and other Indonesians," he said.

"All of them have no legal documents and will be handed over to the Immigration Department."

Mass exodus

Tens of thousands of foreign workers have fled Malaysia since the May announcement of the new laws which say illegal immigrants face fines of up to 10,000 ringgit ($2,600), mandatory prison terms of up to five years and six lashes of a rattan cane.

Many of those leaving on Wednesday just before the deadline were labourers or domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia, which sent naval ships to help repatriate its workers.


I don't think I'll come back to Malaysia, I'll try Bali instead

Allan Surapaty, migrant worker

Employers have criticised the legislation, saying it will damage the country's economy, which relies on foreign workers doing jobs that many Malaysians refuse to do.

Human rights groups have also warned that the crackdown might hit genuine asylum seekers who could face prosecution if they return home.

Allan Surapaty, 32, an Indonesian waiting among 1,000 or so compatriots for a boat out of the southern city of Johor Baru, said he was quitting Malaysia after 14 years spent in construction and other jobs.

"I cannot stand the pressure from the authorities anymore. That's why I've decided to leave in this amnesty," he said.

"I don't think I'll come back to Malaysia, I'll try Bali instead," he added before leaving to find a ferry for the hour-long journey to the Indonesian island of Batam.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"For days they have been queuing up in their thousands to leave Malaysia"
Azim Zabidi, former member of governing party UMNO
"The government will take a softer stand over the next weeks to give an opportunity for people to make their way back"
See also:

20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Country profiles
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