KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities said Saturday they will expand a policy of caning illegal immigrants to include first-time offenders, the national news agency Bernama reported.
Under existing law, foreigners caught sneaking back into Malaysia after being deported can be lashed with a rattan cane, Immigration Director-General Mohd Jamal Kamdi said.
He said the government has approved a new law allowing the punishment for first-time offenders and hopes to begin enforcing it in March, Bernama reported.
The new law is the latest attempt to stem the flow of foreigners who enter Malaysia with no valid papers or overstay visas to work illegally, often in low-paying construction jobs or as plantation labor.
Mohd Jamal did not say how many lashes would be meted out to first-time offenders. Repeat offenders face up to six lashes, jail and a fine if they are convicted of working or staying in Malaysia without valid papers.
More than 500,000 illegal workers are believed to be in Malaysia, and more than 9,000 illegal foreigners, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, are at immigration detention centers awaiting deportation.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said illegal foreigners would be deported within two weeks. The statement came two days after a riot destroyed an immigration detention camp.
One of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest countries, Malaysia is a magnet for immigrants from neighboring Indonesia, the restive southern Philippines and other nations.
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