Free lodging: Some of the Malaysians working in Singapore catching up on sleep at the waiting area inside JB Sentral which is connected to the CIQ.
EXCLUSIVE: JOHOR BARU: At the start of day, they cram with the rush-hour crowd heading across the causeway at the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex here.
There are already queues forming as early as 5am, but this group of Malaysian “backpackers” usually arrive on time.
After clearing customs and immigration, they take a bus and head into the island city where they are employed as factory workers and cleaners.
They make their journey back to the CIQ complex after work in the evenings, together with hordes of other returning Malaysian workers.
This is where the similarity in their daily routine ends.
The “backpackers” do not leave the CIQ complex – they spend their nights within its grounds and at JB Sentral.
This group of people, who number about 100 working in Singapore, have been literally making themselves at home at JB Sentral (which is linked to the CIQ complex) despite being repeatedly chased away by security guards and the authorities.
JB Sentral, which has a gross floor area of 89,417 sq m, is the only entry-exit point into the complex and is used by an estimated 300,000 commuters daily.
As other workers make their way out to get to their homes, this group chooses to call it a day at the CIQ complex.
They use the public toilets to clean themselves and sleep on benches and chairs there. The air-conditioning at JB Sentral makes the nights more conducive.
Food is not a problem with 15 eateries offering a wide variety, some even round-the-clock.
For cash, there are several ATMs for use.
The Sultan Iskandar CIQ Complex was opened in December 2008 as the new visitor processing centre for Johor Baru.
The complex and JB Sentral as the transportation hub, form the Southern Integrated Gateway.
The “backpackers” were not cooperative when approached.
One of them, who identified herself as Sally, claimed she was waiting for her passport to be issued.
“I do not live here. I am just waiting for my documents to be sorted,” she said before heading to a corner of the complex where her belongings, including a transistor radio, slippers, talcum powder and toiletries, were kept in a pile.
Another woman in her 30s said she was there “to wait for a friend”.
“I do not know what you are talking about,’’ she retorted when asked what she was doing there.
Several workers at a sundry shop inside JB Sentral confirmed that the woman had been living in the building over the past fortnight.
A male “backpacker” denied that he lived there and offered to show the contents of his backpack.
The agitated man then went back to sleep.
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