PUTRAJAYA - The Malaysian authorities arrested 71 illegal immigrants and confiscated a samurai sword during the first day of raids as a nationwide crackdown against undocumented foreigners began early on Sunday morning.
Sixty men and 11 women, mostly from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, were picked up in Bukit Raja, Klang and Dengkil for having improper documents and fake work permits or for overstaying in the country.
The operation, involving 150 officers led by the Immigration Department, marked the start of the largest nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country.
The operation, which was announced last week, is targeting those who registered under the Illegal Immigrant Comprehensive Settlement Programme or 6P but did not turn up for further processing, including legalisation and voluntary deportation.
The 6P legalisation and amnesty exercise granted special treatment to illegal immigrants.
During the registration, which was conducted from August to October 2011, about 1.3 million of the estimated two million undocumented foreigners in Malaysia registered.
Of those who registered, 500,000 applications for legalisation were processed while 330,000 people were repatriated.
The raid in Dengkil began at 3am on Sunday. "I wanted to get a real work permit but my boss tricked me. I gave him RM3,000 (S$1,160) and he promised he would do it but he hasn't done it until now. I'm very angry," said 34-year-old Indonesian Suherman, who was apprehended for not having the proper documents.
When questioned by officers on why he did not seek assistance under the 6P programme, he said he was afraid because he was in the country illegally.
In Klang, Indonesian Faizatul Abror, in her 20s, was jolted from her sleep when the authorities raided her squatter home in Bukit Raja at around 5am.
However, unlike the 50 arrested there, she had managed to obtain an extension on her permit after the announcement of the operation last week.
"I've been working here for five years and have been through a raid before. If I am going to continue working here, I'm going to be here with all the right papers," said Ms Faizatul, who is also caring for her one-year-old son.
Meanwhile, Immigration Department deputy director of enforcement Saravana Kumar said that those arrested would be investigated under Section 6, 15(4) and 55 of the Immigration Act and face immediate deportation.
"This sends a clear warning to employers here not to hire illegal immigrants for labour," he said.
Mr Saravana said that in the first phase of the operation, which will run until the end of this year, they aim to arrest around 400,000 illegal immigrants and about 45,000 employers of such foreigners.
The operation will involve some 135,000 personnel nationwide.
"Our operation will include raids on squatter homes, farms, entertainment centres and massage parlours across the country," he said.
He added that immigrants would be deported immediately while local employers can be fined up to RM50,000, or face jail time of up to five years or six strokes of the rotan, or be punished with all three.