Malaysia steps up checks on "high risk nationals"
Tue, Jan 05, 2010
The Star/Asia News Network


PETALING JAYA - Malaysia has heightened screenings at entry and exit checkpoints for "high-risk nationals" based on lists provided by the United States and Australia.

The Immigration Department has been requested to be extra careful when handling arrivals from certain countries.

Immigration director-general Da-tuk Abdul Rahman Othman said: "We have been screening individuals from high-risk nations more prudently."

However, the department was keeping the lists of countries under wraps because of diplomatic sensitivities.

Australia forwarded an updated list to the Immigration Department in October while the United States did so in September.

Abdul Rahman also said that the United States had previously only recommended that nationals from "high-risk countries" be handled carefully but now it was insisting on full checks for them.

"Everyone must be on full alert. They have now singled out many countries that are high risk when they had not before.

"But we have been careful with our checks. We will continue to do it at all checkpoints," he said.

Abdul Rahman said the department had been holding discussions with officials from the two countries on the "high risk" lists for a number of years now.

"But we cannot really say them out loud because we do not want to be seen as discriminatory to any nationality or country.

"We do not want embassies or other diplomatic missions to say we're pinpointing their countries. Definitely, it is only one or two individuals of any nationality that will be considered high risk," he said.

Abdul Rahman admitted that the department had to rely on the two countries' more sophisticated information gathering system to identify persons deemed "high risk".

"They have the latest technology to gather this type of information. We are not that developed in this area so we must go along with their lists," he said.

Abdul Rahman was commenting on an announcement by the US Transportation Security Administration that passengers from "countries of interest" would now be subjected to body scans and pat-downs at US airports.

US airports were also directed to increase screening of passengers from a list of 14 countries - Afgha-nistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Cuba and Iran.

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