Malaysia drops charges against Indonesian illegals

SUBANG JAYA - Malaysia has dropped immigration offence charges against the illegals here after Indonesia agreed to fly them back home for free.

That's the deal worked out between the two countries that has so far benefited 703 illegal Indonesian immigrants who have been issued new travel documents for their trip yesterday and today.

This first joint immigration arrangement of its kind between Malaysia and Indonesia came after a meeting between Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the republic's Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri on Dec 18.

They brokered a deal which allows a large number of illegal immigrants held in detention centres here to be sent back with Indonesia bearing the cost for new travel documents and the flight home.

Malaysia, for its part, drops all charges against those being sent back but will impose a three to six month "cooling period" during which the illegals will not be allowed to return to Malaysia.

Four hundred and ninety-four illegal immigrants were flown from the Subang Royal Malaysian Air Force base in five Indonesian C-130 Hercules planes yesterday while 209 others will be sent home today, said Immigration deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi.

"We hope to work out such a win-win deal with other embassies soon. We are taking a new approach as we want to reduce the cost of keeping illegal immigrants in our depot.

"Our Government spends about RM4.50 (S$1.70) per day feeding one illegal immigrant. If you see our BR1M handouts, our Government spends more keeping immigrants here than on our own people.

"We don't want to keep them here for too long, they have to go home and we'd also like to control the number of foreigners entering Malaysia," he said, adding that those sent back would have their biometrics saved into a system to prevent them from entering the country illegally again.

Sakib said about 500 Indonesian illegal immigrants remained in immigration depots around the country because some were linked to criminal cases or had problems with their documents.

Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno hailed the collaboration with Malaysian authorities, and reminded Indonesian workers to adhere to Malaysian law.