Bangladeshi boat people return home for Ramadan
Despite facing deportation to their home country of Bangladesh, the boat people were excited because they would be getting the chance to observe Ramadan with their families.
The 61 migrants, aged between 17 and 49, were part of the 1,109 rescued human trafficking victims who landed in Pulau Langkawi last month.
There were 715 Bangladeshis, while the rest were Rohingya migrants.
The Star reported that the group had their pre-fast meal before leaving the Immigration Detention Centre in Belantik, Kedah, in two buses to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), which is about 500km away.
Unlike the persecuted Rohingya migrants from Myanmar, the Bangladeshi migrants saw the trip back home as a journey to freedom because many of them had been duped by human trafficking syndicates before reaching Malaysia.
Mr Muhamad Shamsul's eyes lit up at the thought of a family reunion during the festive season.
The 38-year-old told The Star: "I'm very excited and can't wait to see my wife and three children. I have not seen them for a while."
Mr Shamsul said he had boarded a boat for Malaysia this year after paying RM12,000 (S$4,300) to an agent.
"I came here because there are many jobs, compared to our harsh life in Bangladesh.
"I was in the boat for three months, but after this incident, I don't plan to come here by boat any more. I'll return provided I get a work permit."
Another Bangladeshi, Mr Daud Ali, 55, expressed eagerness to go home despite suffering chest pains.
He was on the boat for three months and had paid RM600.
Kedah Immigration Department assistant director Mohd Shahrir Khalil said the department paid for the eight-hour trip to KLIA before the migrants were repatriated to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
He said the migrants, all Muslim men, had received their passports from the Bangladesh High Commission.
"The other Bangladeshis at the detention centre will be sent home when the documentation process is done," he said.
The 1,109 Bangladeshis and Rohingya migrants, including women and children, landed illegally in Pulau Langkawi on several boats on May 10.
They are believed to have been abandoned by human traffickers after Thai authorities launched a crackdown on such syndicates last month.
This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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