03/01/2005, 00.00
malaysia - indonesia
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Malaysia launches crackdown on illegal workers

Kuala Lumpur  (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Malaysian police raided workplaces in darkness early on Tuesday in a nationwide crackdown on illegal workers, mostly Indonesians, arresting at least 131 people shortly after a four-month-old amnesty ended at midnight.

In one of the earliest raids, about 400 government volunteers and immigration officials, some armed with pistols and others with night sticks, cordoned off a construction site outside Kuala Lumpur and detained 243 foreigners.

Forty among them who failed to produce proper documents were arrested and taken to a detention centre pending trial where they face fines, caning or jail. Ninety-one others were arrested nationwide.

One worker at the construction site, 35-year-old Amin, who uses only one name, told a reporter who observed the raid that he was forced to skip the amnesty offer because "I have no money and there is no future for me in Indonesia."

Malaysia offered illegal workers a chance to return home without facing any penalties in an amnesty that started in October and expired Monday. Some 400,000 illegal workers departed, but Malaysian officials say about half a million remain. About 300,000 officials are involved in the crackdown operation.

Foreign workers from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and India form the backbone of Malaysia's menial work force, sustaining the construction industry and plantations. They also work in restaurants and do other low-paid jobs. Besides illegal workers, some 1 million other foreigners are working here legally. Malaysians blame rising urban crime on foreign workers, especially the illegal ones who are often dumped by their employers.

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