KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said Friday it is fast-tracking the deportation of illegal migrants under a pilot project that would see offenders handed a fine and a one-way ticket home—bypassing court and jail.
“We have got more than one million people who are illegal in this country so I don’t think our prisons are big enough,” Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told a press conference.
“So if people have overstayed slightly, we will try to sort it out.”
Under the current system, illegal migrants are arrested, charged in court and face a variable fine or jail sentence.
But under the scheme, launched at Kuala Lumpur’s main airport, offenders will have their biometric details recorded—including fingerprints and facial recognition data—before being served with a small fine.
The cost of their flight home will be covered by employers’ bonds, which are paid when hiring a foreigner.
Esteban Conejos, Foreign Affairs undersecretary for Migrant Affairs, told The Manila Times on Friday that the Philippines is confident that Malaysia will abide by an earlier agreement that call for an orderly and humane conduct of deporting illegal aliens. Plus, those to be deported are only those who are medically fit.
He would not say how many Filipinos are in Malaysia, but according to earlier reports, about 7,000 Filipinos have been deported annually since 2000.
“We are just beginning the test project . . . Once this system is established and we are confident that it works, then we are going to install it at all our entry and exit points,” said senior home ministry official Raja Azahar.
Migrant rights group Tenaganita criticized the new approach, which will give visa overstayers no right to appeal in court or to be represented by a lawyer.
“We are concerned by the new policy because a lot of foreign workers end up being illegal because employers fail to renew their work permit and bond,” said the group’s coordinator Aegile Fernandez.
“They end up being illegal not due to any fault of their own and these individuals should not then face expulsion,” she told Agence France-Presse.
Syed Hamid urged employers not to rely on foreign workers. The nation of 27 million people has an estimated 2.2 million foreign laborers who are the mainstay of the plantation and manufacturing sectors.
“When the economy is facing a global crisis, we must give priority to our people,” he said. –AFP With Llanesca T. Panti