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Malaysia Canes and Jails Illegal Immigrants.......

2002-08-10 21:03:52

Malaysian courts order illegal immigrants to be whipped.

AP [ SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2002 2:42:30 PM ]

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian courts for the first time ordered seven foreigners to be whipped and imprisoned for entering the country without valid papers under tough new laws against illegal immigrants, court officials said on Saturday.

Four Indonesians were sentenced to be lashed twice with a rattan cane. Another Indonesian and two Bangladesh nationals were ordered to be whipped once.

The seven, aged between 22 to 38, who pleaded guilty to entering the country illegally, were also sentenced to jail terms between six months and two years.

The sentences were handed out by lower courts in the central state of Selangor and the northern island state of Penang on Friday, court officials in the two states said on condition of anonymity.

The seven are the first to be charged under new laws that were enforced this month which provide for fines of up to 10,000 ringgit ($2,600), mandatory prison terms of six months to five years and up to six strokes of the cane.

Previously offenders were fined and in some cases given jail sentences of less then three months before they were deported.

The new laws came into force after a four-month grace period that allowed illegal immigrants to leave the country lapsed. Government officials say about 290,000 illegal immigrants, mainly from Indonesia and Bangladesh, left the country during that time.

Officials estimated that before the crackdown up to 600,000 illegal workers formed a labor black market in Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's wealthiest countries and a magnet for migrants fleeing poverty and violence in the region. The government says about 450,000 of them are Indonesians who mostly work in menial plantation, construction or housekeeping jobs.

The plight of thousands of illegal Indonesian workers still in Malaysia - who face caning and imprisonment if caught by authorities - topped the agenda during talks between Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Bali, Indonesia earlier this week.

Indonesia is asking Malaysia to allow the remaining illegal workers to stay while their travel documents and work visas are processed in the Malaysian cities of Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. The Malaysian government says it will give extra time to people who can prove they plan to leave the country.

Officials from the two countries insist ties between their governments remain strong despite the eviction of thousands of Indonesian workers from Malaysia.

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