Illegal immigrants in Sarawak a ‘huge problem’, deputy home minister admits

File picture of a detained suspected illegal migrant worker in an immigration truck during a crackdown. Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said said stringent measures must be taken to keep the east Malaysian state clean of illegals, including immediate deportation of those caught without valid travel documents. — Reuters pic
File picture of a detained suspected illegal migrant worker in an immigration truck during a crackdown. Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said said stringent measures must be taken to keep the east Malaysian state clean of illegals, including immediate deportation of those caught without valid travel documents. — Reuters pic

KUCHING, April 11 — Sarawak’s illegal immigrants numbers are alarming, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar admitted today after unverified intelligence reports emerged, estimating the community’s population to be between 320,000 and 350,000.

The deputy home minister said stringent measures must be taken to keep the east Malaysian state clean of illegals, including immediate deportation of those caught without valid travel documents.

Wan Junaidi, who is Santubong MP, revealed that most of the illegal immigrants are employed in oil palm plantations year the state’s border with Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“If this information is genuine, then we have a huge problem, considering that the state is huge and has a population of 2.6 million,” he said after chairing a high-level meeting to coordinate strategies on issues involving immigration and human trafficking along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border areas.

He said he will call for a meeting with these plantation companies, especially those that operate large swathes of land, to warn them against hiring more illegal immigrants.

“I would like to remind them not to take an easy way out by employing the illegal immigrants because they do not have to pay insurance, Employees Provident Fund and so on, but at the end of the day, when they are caught by the authorities, they have to pay more in terms of fines,” he said.

He said the government is giving the companies time to phase out their hiring of illegal workers before large scale operations are carried out to nab those found guilty of the offence.

Wan Junaidi said the Sarawak government does not tolerate the presence of illegal immigrants and has declared getting rid of them its main priority.

“At this meeting, we have made a decision to deport anyone caught without any valid documents to their countries of origin and if they enter Sarawak from another country, then we will deport them to that country,” he said.

Citing an example, Wan Junaidi said if illegal immigrants from the Philippines enter Sarawak from Sabah, the state government will deport them to Sabah.

Wan Junaidi also directed the state Immigration Department to submit a weekly report to him, the Sarawak State Secretary’s Office and the Immigration Department headquarters on the ongoing operations against illegal immigrants.

“The report must be submit on every Friday, starting next week,” he said.

“If there is no progress or no action taken, then we want to know why,” he added. 

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