SIK: A total of 61 Bangladeshi boat people were excited despite facing deportation.
The timing seemed perfect – they would be observing Ramadan with their family in Bangladesh.
The migrants, aged between 17 and 49, were part of the 1,109 rescued human trafficking victims who landed in Pulau Langkawi last month. A total of 715 of them were Bangladeshis while the rest were Rohingya migrants.
Dressed in maroon T-shirts, the group had their pre-fast sahur meal before leaving the Immigration Detention Centre in Belantik in two buses to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
Unlike the persecuted Rohingya migrants, the Bangladeshis saw the trip back home as a journey to freedom because many of them had been duped by human trafficking syndicates before reaching Malaysia.
The eyes of Muhamad Shamsul, 38, lit up at the thought of a family reunion during the festive season.
“I’m very excited and can’t wait to see my wife and three children. I have not seen them for a while,” he said when met in one of the buses.
Muhamad said he boarded a boat to come to Malaysia this year after paying RM12,000 to an agent.
“I came here because there are plenty of 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 will return provided I get a work permit,” he said.
Another migrant, Daud Ali, 55, expressed his eagerness to go home despite suffering chest pains.
He was on the boat for three months but he only 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 Dhaka.
He said the group of 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 were believed to have been abandoned after Thai authorities launched a crackdown against human trafficking syndicates last month.