IPOH: The 232 Acehnese detained in Kuala Lumpur last week entered the country in search of jobs and not to seek political asylum, investigations by the Immigration Department revealed.
Perak Immigration director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said they came to Malaysia for economic reasons and that their intention was to get registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for purposes of seeking employment.
He said 16 of them had been deported, in two batches, following travel documentation facilitated by the Indonesian Embassy and air tickets for their Ipoh-Medan flight provided by their family members who had Malaysian permanent resident status.
They had been detained at the immigration holding centre in Langkap, about 100km from here.
On Aug 19, police rounded up the 232 Acehnese, including 11 women, in front of the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur. They were detained under the Immigration Act for not having valid travel documents.
Ishak said the rest of them would be deported as soon as their travel documents were processed by the embassy. He said 75 of the Acehnese had entered the country with valid passports but had overstayed.
“The rest we suspect entered the country illegally. But we will definitely send all of them back,” he said.
Ishak said none of them were found to be involved with the separatist Free Aceh Movement struggling for an independent Aceh from the Indonesian republic.
Earlier, UNHCR had requested that the Acehnese be granted temporary stay in the country in view of turmoil in Aceh.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also Home Minister, stressed that they would have to be deported as they were without valid permits to remain in Malaysia.
On Wednesday, the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur said asylum-seekers should not be treated as illegal immigrants and arrested.
“Under international law, asylum-seekers are different from illegal immigrants, and should not be treated as illegal immigrants,” UNHCR spokesman Evan Ruth had said, noting however, that Malaysian law did not provide this distinction. – Bernama