JOHOR BARU. July 19, 2015:

Undocumented foreign workers, who are offered government amnesty to enable them tobalik kampung for Hari Raya, seems to have rebuked the amnesty offer, instead they are willing to pay exorbitant fees to return home illegally.

This is clearly evident in the slow take-up rate of the amnesty programme for illegal immigrants working in the country.

And authorities are now bracing themselves for an influx of illegal entries once the festive period is over.

The illegal immigrants have become wise to being blacklisted and biometric documented, which would prevent their return after the holidays.

Instead they are willing to pay up to RM2,000 per exit to “snakeheads” or “tekong darat” and “tekong laut” (human trafficking syndicate operatives) compared to RM300 to Immigration Department.

The syndicates, which are usually headed or run by Indonesian nationals with Malaysian permanent resident status, are responsible for the bulk of the illegal exits.

Since amnesty was introduced several years ago, undocumented foreign workers and illegal immigrants who overstayed took advantage of the voluntary exit programme.

Upon surrender, they undergo a documentation process, which include biometric thumb prints, pictures recorded, and RM400 for fine and exit pass. Travel arrangement expenses are borne by the illegal immigrants.

“This naturally means they are blacklisted and denied future entry even if travelling on passports with assumed identity,” a source with knowledge of the programme told The Rakyat Post.

“They will surely return through laluan lorong tikus (illegal entry-exit points) after a while in Indonesia to earn a living in the construction or plantation sectors. It’s becoming a fact that the same people return after several weeks of holidaying.”

Under amnesty, the source explained, information of those blacklisted is shared with other enforcement agencies like police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) through a referencing database.

“When caught after being blacklisted, illegal immigrants are dealt with severely.”

It would seem this method had been effective until illegal immigrants realised how and why they were nabbed at legal entry points when travelling on new passports with assumed identities.

Soon word spread like wildfire among their community, and illegal immigrants were urged not to take up the government’s amnesty programme.

Furthermore, human trafficking syndicates took advantage of the situation and raised their fees from the previous RM1,200 per head to RM2,000.

Many desperate to balik kampungare assured by “snakeheads” they would travel hassle free on bot pancung (high-powered speed boats) through territorial waters surrounding Johor. It takes them a mere 30 minutes to reach the nearest island on Indonesian territory.

However, the source explained that immigration crackdowns and boats capsizing due to choppy sea conditions were risks they faced, and there was no refund offered.

For many years now, Johor has been besieged with the problem of illegal immigrants entering and exiting through unauthorised points via sea.

The state’s porous coastal area, especially the long eastern coastline stretch, is the main gateway for illegal immigrants.

At present, Ladang Mados, Tanjung Balau, Pengerang, Tanjung Sedili and Sungai Tiram (closer to Johor Baru city centre) are known locations for illegal exit and entry.

The source said mere knowledge was insufficient as the points of entry and exit constantly changed, and so did departure and arrival times.

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