PETALING JAYA, March 1 — The nationwide crackdown against illegal immigrants enters its twelfth day today, with over 30,000 screened and 9,900 rounded up since February 19.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said while the daily operations, dubbed Ops Hari Hari, are yielding results, the delay in deporting them has resulted in congestion at the 14 detention centres across the country.
The matter was highlighted by Immigration director-general Datuk Sakib Kusmi who suggested the expansion of current detention centres with more holding centres to be built immediately.
In an exclusive interview with Malay Mail recently, Nur Jazlan said the government had stopped funding the deportation of illegal foreigners since 2014, resulting in the overcrowded centres.
"The detainees will now have to fork out their own money, either through their embassies or families. This is the main reason for the delay,” he said.
“Prior to 2014, the government had set aside a budget for the deportation of illegal foreigners and the process was faster.”
The overcrowding has forced the Penang Immigration Department to search for new detention centres in Terengganu. The centre in Juru is now full with 500 detainees while the centres in Belantik, Kedah and Langkap in Perak — with maximum capacities of 1,050 and 1,000 respectively — are now overcrowded with 1,158 and 1,500 detainees respectively.
Penang immigration deputy director P. Selva said yesterday the department was forced to send detainees to Ajil in Terengganu. He said there was a need to identify other areas in the state that could house detainees. There are 900 foreigners in Ajil.
The Pulai MP said employers, especially from the construction sector, were the main culprits bringing workers from abroad but failing to safeguard their welfare, which forced them to find jobs elsewhere.
“The same firm will then apply for a fresh batch of workers and this had caused the influx of foreign labourers here. Through Ops Hari Hari, we aim to weed out illegals and encourage employers to rehire undocumented workers who do not have criminal records and who entered the country legally."
Sakib said his department faced manpower woes due to the size of the operation which is seeing the involvement of more than 10 agencies.
“Our personnel are going to every location nationwide, from business premises, clubs, bars and factories to plantations. We only have 4,000 enforcement officers and have no choice but to rope in officers from other divisions in the operation as we are spearheading this crackdown,” he said.
As illegal immigrants filled detention centres, the department has taken several measures to ensure the health and security of detainees are not compromised.
“Those detained are screened thoroughly before entering the centre. Those who are ill will be isolated. Medical officers from the Health Ministry have been assigned to monitor the detainees.”
He said the detainees were not separated based on race or nationality to avoid prevent them from forming gangs and to ensure the safety of those in the centres.
“The department's objective is to ensure all foreigners in the country have valid documentation to enable us to know the exact number of foreigners here.”