Malaysian clampdown on illegal workers

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The Independent Online

Malaysia has starteda massive crackdown on illegal foreign workers, deploying hundreds of thousands of vigilantes to hunt down migrant workers without valid visas. Those caught face deportation, jail sentences and whipping with a rattan cane.

Malaysia has starteda massive crackdown on illegal foreign workers, deploying hundreds of thousands of vigilantes to hunt down migrant workers without valid visas. Those caught face deportation, jail sentences and whipping with a rattan cane.

The campaign comes after a widely publicised four-month amnesty, during which half a million migrants are believed to have fled. In one pre-dawn raid yesterday, some 400 men with guns and truncheons sealed off a construction site outside Kuala Lumpur, the capital. The officials hammered on the foreign workers' flimsy wooden huts and ordered them out.

Blinking the sleep from their eyes, they emerged into a cauldron of television lights. Many of the women were clutching babies. Some tried to run, but they were overpowered before they could make it to the surrounding jungle. One woman hid in knee-deep mud for half an hour until they found her.

One of the women arrested cried as she told reporters: "I know what I have done is wrong. But I need the money to support my family. I will accept whatever comes. I place my life in the hands of Allah."

Only 20,000 of the armed men are police, soldiers or immigration officials; the 300,000 volunteers are effectively vigilantes, licensed and armed by the authorities, who offer cash for every illegal worker found.

Malaysians are reluctant to accept low-paid jobs and the economy depends heavily on cheap foreign labour. But foreign workers are blamed for crime and spreading disease.

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