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75 workers detained in Malaysia

A TOTAL of 75 Cambodian nationals have been arrested in Malaysia for staying in the country illegally, officials said yesterday, updating unconfirmed reports earlier this week that 65 people had
been detained.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the group was mostly made up of women and children, some of whom had overstayed their visas.
“These Cambodian people are now being detained in one place in Malaysia,” he said.

“Our embassy now is also working hard and contacting Malaysian authorities in order to bring them back to their homes in Cambodia. I hope that they will be brought back to their homes soon.”

Meas Saneth, programme director for the NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, said the group  – which had likely entered the country to look for work with the help of illegal brokers – was
arrested by immigration police in Malaysia’s Johor province on Saturday.

“My organisation is now also working hard to contact these detainees in Malaysia in order to know about their living conditions, health and safety,” he said.

Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, minister counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh, said he had also received reports of the Cambodians’ arrest.

He said the group was being detained at an immigration centre in Johor province, but was unable to provide more detailed information, saying embassy officials were still investigating the case.

“By tomorrow we can get more information,” he said.

He said he did not yet know whether or not the group would be repatriated but that in either case, they would have to face a Malaysian court first.

“By law they will be questioned by our officials and sent to the court for illegally staying in Malaysia, because they broke the law,” he said.

Malaysia has become an increasingly popular destination for Cambodian migrant workers, with the number of Cambodians seeking work there increasing by about four times over the past two years.

A total of 20,909 Cambodians – among them 18,038 domestic workers – were given visas in the first eight months of last year, according to figures provided by the Malaysian embassy.

A total of 12,682 Malaysian visas were issued in all of 2009, on top of 5,304 in 2008.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BROOKE LEWIS

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