KUALA LUMPUR: Volunteer reserve corps Rela has been made the lead agency in the crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country.
Empowered to enter premises and make arrests, Rela has recently been spearheading large-scale raids, said Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.
“It’s 100,000 (active) members are able and willing to become our eyes and ears, and will be in charge of hunting down illegal immigrants.”
The corps was formed in 1972 under Emergency laws to assist security agencies, such as the Immigration Department and the police.
Now 300,000-strong, it has however, been criticised for heavy-handed tactics and abuse of power in several incidents earlier this year, triggering concern over vigilantism.
On Sunday, a group of Cheras residents complained of their aggressive methods and property damage following a raid there on Oct 14.
Radzi said the operation in Cheras netted more than 500 foreign workers who had overstayed, and another operation in Selayang netted 400 illegal immigrants.
“If there are real complaints, I will make sure the Rela member responsible will pay for it.
“Give them a chance to work. If any Rela member oversteps his powers, I will take care of it,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
He said if the public was too sensitive over the way Rela worked, things would not get done.
He added Rela raids would be intensified next year and the ministry was aiming to start a nationwide blitz in January.
“There are thousands more (illegal immigrants). We are going on a nationwide hunt for them, so employers, beware.”
The government has turned to Rela to pursue and arrest illegal workers because agencies such as the police and the Immigration Department are short-handed.
The Immigration Department has just 8,122 workers nationwide, for example, said Immigration Department director-general Datuk Wahid Md Don.
He said the green light for Rela to lead operations came six months ago. Enforcement officers from the Immigration and other security agencies would accompany Rela’s raiding teams, he added.
“Our enforcers can now concentrate on paperwork and focus on prosecution rather than spending time rounding up illegal immigrants,” he said.
“We have received very few complaints about Rela members.”
Of the 1.8 million migrants workers here, nearly 500,000 of them are believed to have overstayed, had expired work permits or entered the country illegally.
Earlier this year, two Rela members were detained for questioning after complaints they had forced a group of men to do the duck walk around a residential area.
Rela members also detained for two weeks a Nepalese student, Kedar Thapa, who had valid travel documents. Several members were also sued earlier this year over a 2003 incident where a woman detained in a raid was photographed urinating in a truck.
This article was written in October 2006
This article has been transferred from Expat KL
This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com
"ExpatGo welcomes and encourages comments, input, and divergent opinions. However, we kindly request that you use suitable language in your comments, and refrain from any sort of personal attack, hate speech, or disparaging rhetoric. Comments not in line with this are subject to removal from the site. "