MMEA: Boat people could be headed for Johor

Rohingya migrants from Myanmar wait in line for food aid packages at a temporary shelter in Beyeun, near Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh Province, May 31, 2015. — Reuters pic
Rohingya migrants from Myanmar wait in line for food aid packages at a temporary shelter in Beyeun, near Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh Province, May 31, 2015. — Reuters pic

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JOHOR BARU, June 2 — Johor could be an intended destination of boat people from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are in Malaysian waters, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said.

That is, if the Indonesian authorities who themselves are grappling with the problem of these illegal immigrants arriving on their shores in Aceh, in the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, turn a blind eye.

“For now these illegal immigrants and their boats have not reached the coastal waters of Johor,” MMEA deputy director of operations Datuk Ahmad Pozi Abdul Kahar said.

“But you’ll never know.

“There is always the possibility of them and their boats arriving in Johor, especially along the west coast of the  state.

“There could be boats which could slip past the control of the respective countries’ maritime borders and head south. 

“We are on the alert, monitoring and tracking the situation in the Straits of Malacca,” he said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the four-day Redback Ops 4, a joint exercise between MMEA and the Australian Customs and Border Operation Service which is aimed at making Malaysian waters safe from piracy, human smuggling and trafficking and goods smuggling.

Ops Redback 4 is the fourth such exercise with similiar excercises conducted in Langkawi, Lumut and Klang in the past five months.

Pozi also said in view of the Hari Raya holidays next month and given that Johor has a large group of Indonesian workers in the plantation sector, a balik kampung exodus was expected.

“Traditionally, this is the time (Hari Raya) when they go home. We are prepared for these mass movements.

“Places like Tanjung Piai, Pontian and Kukup are hotspots from where illegal Indonesian workers would make their way home.

“We are monitoring the situation and our advice to them is not to endanger their lives by using unsafe boats.

“There are ferries which will provide them safe passage for the festive occasion,” added Pozi.

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