Posted on August 16, 2004

18,000 Immigrants Whipped

AFP,, Aug. 16

Kuala Lumpur — Eighteen thousand illegal immigrants have been whipped in Malaysian prisons in the past two years since the introduction of tough new laws, a report said on Monday.

Another 16,900 are awaiting their turn, the New Straits Times said, quoting prison sources. Most receive three strokes with the cane, the paper said.

Caning is meted out for several crimes in Malaysia and was introduced for illegal immigrants in August 2002 after a crackdown, which saw nearly half a million people repatriated during a four-month amnesty period.

Malaysia gave notice last month that it planned a major new sweep against illegal immigrants, which could see more than a million people detained and punished before being deported.

Most are from Indonesia

Home Minister Azmi Khalid said there were an estimated 1,2 million illegal workers in the country. Most are from neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines, drawn to relatively prosperous Malaysia by jobs in construction, plantation work and services.

Under the new laws, illegal immigrants and those who harbour or employ them face fines of up to 10,000 ringgit ($2,630) per offence, a jail sentence of up to five years, or both, with whipping.

Local prisons are now becoming overcrowded, with foreigners making up 40% of the prison population of 42,284 — 10,000 more than they were designed to hold, the New Straits Times reported.

“If we were in the hotel industry, then it would be something to celebrate. But as things stand, we are in the wrong line,” Prisons Department deputy director-general Donald Wee was quoted as saying.

Indonesians made up the largest number of foreigners in prisons, followed by Myanmar nationals, Filipinos, Thais and Indians, he said.