S’wak acts to check human trafficking
KUCHING: Sarawak is tightening immigration checks to curb illegal entry and counter human trafficking in the wake of reports of increasing attempts by foreigners to enter the state illegally.
The immigration department had denied entry to at least 6,500 Bangladeshis at Sungai Tujuh – on suspicion that they were illegal workers – in the first six months of this year.
The new initiatives and measures, announced by Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad, would come into effect on Oct 1 and are aimed at Third World migrants, particularly from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The federal government acted upon the need to be more strict and vigilant when it came to preventing international syndicates from using Sarawak to facilitate human trafficking activities, Alias said.
The Sungai Tujuh checkpoint (at the Sarawak-Brunei border) was believed to be the main route used by the traffickers to smuggle in foreigners (especially Bangladeshis) with fake documents and other means, he explained.
According to Alias, 22,220 individuals had registered for one-year work permits in Sarawak but only 4,860 had come forward to collect them, which meant the rest were now in violation of overstaying in the state.
In recent operations, it carried out 32 raids in the first week of September and detained 230 foreigners on the grounds that they did not possess valid work permits.
This was part of the ongoing national-level operations where some 120 raids had resulted in 3,144 persons arrested for illegal activities.
Sarawak, the country’s largest state, has 31 official entry points but is prone to illegal entries as its vast land borders (with neighbours Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia) and sea borders measuring some 750km are porous and difficult to monitor effectively.
With thousands entering the state as skilled and unskilled labourers, there are surely more illegals hidden from plain sight as the vast state with its remote oil palm plantations, furniture factories and timber camps offer employment opportunities – and hiding places – for them.
Other than illegal workers, Sarawak could potentially face security risks as the porous borders provide easy entry points for foreign intruders, as was the case with Indonesian invaders in the 1960s.