JOHOR BARU, May 12 — Since the movement control order (MCO) was enforced on March 18, a total of 60 skippers have been arrested by the authorities for trafficking migrants, said Johor police chief Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.
He said the authorities have also detained 90 migrants during the same period.
“The skippers who have been arrested are aged between 23 and 57, while those migrants who were detained were aged between one and 60.
“Through the integrated Op-Pintas Bersepadu Selatan, we will focus on arresting skippers to ensure that migrant smuggling activities can be prevented,” said Ayob Khan during a press conference at the Johor police contingent headquarters here today.
Op-Pintas Bersepadu Selatan is an integrated operation involving the police, Armed Forces, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Customs Department and Immigration Department to address cross-border crime in the state, mainly thorough sea routes.
Ayob Khan, who has been focusing on migrant trafficking activities in the state, revealed that the authorities also expect more migrants to exit the country nearing the Hari Raya period.
“The purpose of arresting the migrants is to investigate the skippers as the authorities need witnesses to testify against them in court.
“If we do not take such action, we will not be able to catch the skippers,” he said.
However, Ayob Khan said the most worrying issue was the mass movement of migrants back into the country after the festive period ends.
On a related matter, Ayob Khan said seven skippers, comprising locals and foreigners, have been charged at the Kota Tinggi Magistrate's Court last Sunday.
“The suspects have been charged under Section 26A of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007. If convicted, they are liable to imprisonment for not more than 15 years and fine or both,” he added.
Johor has vast, porous borders that exit through the sea that have been used as illegal entry and exit points for foreigners.
Op-Pintas Bersepadu Selatan that was launched last month aims to ensure that the state’s borders, both land and sea, are safe from further breaches.