JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is now monitoring at least 10 hotspots in the state used by illegal migrants to sneak across the borders, especially during the Hari Raya rush back to their home countries.
The areas are mainly located in Pengerang, Batu Pahat, Mersing, Sedili and Pontian.
Johor MMEA deputy operations director Sanifah Yusof said the boats would usually leave or enter at night to avoid detection by the authorities.
“It takes about two hours to reach their destination. If they leave from Mersing or Sedili, they will usually travel to Batam in Indonesia, while those from Pontian and Kukup usually head or return from Pulau Karimun,” he said.
He added that each illegal would pay the tekong (boatman) between RM1,000 and RM3,000 for the boat ride.
He said the MMEA was now conducting a special operation dubbed Ops Pagar Laut to tackle this problem.
“Our focus will be in the Pengerang water areas and between Batu Pahat and Pontian because these are some of the most frequently used routes.
“Although it’s a bit hard to pinpoint the exact laluan tikus (hidden route) used by these illegal immigrants, we will still do our best to ensure that our borders are not easily penetrated,” he said.
Sanifah added that the MMEA was also working closely with enforcement agencies from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia to monitor the vast water areas.
“We have to admit that we are working with limited assets with a lot of ground to cover, so one of the ways we make up for that is through constant communication with our enforcement counterparts.
“We also share information with the National Security Council so that other agencies in the states are also aware of any information that we have,” he explained.
Sanifah also said that some of the apprehended illegal immigrants did not have any identification documents.
“Currently, we are continuing to monitor our waters through Ops Jaksa and so far, we have not heard about any leaving and entering attempts.
“These attempts are also aided by the tonto syndicate that monitors our movement from land, so it’s a bit hard to stop these illegal activities.
“For example, if we monitor area A, they will move to area B; if we go to area B, they will move to area C,” he added.
Sanifah said Johor had a total distance of 271km seaside area in the west and 254km in the east.
“For Ops Pagar Laut, we are placing one ship in the west, one in the east and three patrol boats in three zones, namely Sedili, Mersing and Batu Pahat, with a total manpower of 50 personnel working in shifts,” he added.
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