Attempts to enter Malaysian waters illegally happen ‘almost every night’: Maritime enforcement agency
PUTRAJAYA: Attempts to infiltrate Malaysian waters by human traffickers and illegal immigrants have been happening “almost every night” since May last year, said Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
A total of 1,100 suspicious targets have been detected through the Malaysian Maritime Sea Surveillance System (SWASLA), said MMEA director-general Mohd Zubil Mat Som in a statement on Friday (Dec 17).
SWASLA is a radar network system that operates round the clock.
“Based on records, since Ops Benteng was launched in May 2020 to curb the smuggling of illegal immigrants, all assets belonging to agencies under the coordination of a national task force have always carried out patrol and monitoring in national waters.
“Almost every night there are attempts to infiltrate but with SWASLA, which is owned by MMEA, (we) have succeeded in detecting 1,100 suspicious targets and forced 689 of them out of Malaysian waters,” said Mr Mohd Zubil.
He said even though tight controls at the country’s borders have been widely publicised, there were still stubborn immigrants who entered the country illegally to their own detriment.
"What is even sadder is that the smuggling syndicates do not care at all. In fact, they are always looking for space and opportunities to gain profit without considering the risk to the lives (of people they ferry),” he added.
Mr Mohd Zubil’s statement was issued in response to the boat tragedy on Wednesday in Tanjung Balau, Kota Tinggi, where 21 people died.
The boat, believed to be carrying 50 illegal immigrants from Indonesia, capsized during stormy weather.
During the search and rescue operation, 20 bodies were found, 14 people have been rescued - one of them died in the hospital on Friday morning - while 16 others are believed to be still missing.
Mr Mohd Zubil said that such tragedies could have been avoided if immigrants had not worked together with human trafficking syndicates to enter Malaysia illegally.
He said that attempts to sail through the current weather conditions were suicidal as the waves could go up as high as 5m and wind speeds could go up to 50kmh.
On Malaysia’s part, Mr Mohd Zubil said that MMEA would continue to strengthen its border surveillance, especially in the eastern waters of Johor, which have been the main route for illegal immigrants to enter the country.
He said MMEA would also be working together with the Indonesian authorities to share any information on human trafficking and illegal activities in order to eradicate this problem.
Speaking to reporters in Tanjung Balau on Thursday, Johor Maritime Operations deputy director Captain (Maritime) Simon Templer Lo Ak Tusa said that Malaysian authorities have already identified the coordinator as well as the mastermind behind the human trafficking syndicate.
He said relevant authorities have already taken steps for further action against those involved in the syndicate.
Meanwhile, search and rescue efforts were still continuing to look for the remaining missing people.