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Human trafficking rampant off Pengerang

JOHOR BARU, 2 June 2009: Stricter surveillance must be conducted off Pengerang on Johor’s east coast as its proximity to a group of Indonesian islands makes it a favourite haunt for human trafficking syndicates, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said.

Its southern region chief, Admiral Che Hassan Jusoh, said the recent drowning of foreigners recently showed the challenges his officers faced.

On 28 April 2009, six Pakistanis were drowned off Pengerang after a boat capsized during a storm.

Che Hassan told Bernama that although the Pakistani embassy in Kuala Lumpur claimed that they were tourists, there was talk that they were in fact going to Batam en route to Australia to seek political asylum.

On 12 May, eight Indonesian illegal immigrants drowned after their boat which was heading for Batam, also capsized off Pengerang.

Most of the boats leaving Pengerang head for Batam, Karimun or Bintan.

Che Hassan said there were many other similar cases involving Indonesian illegal immigrants, making the case for stricter surveillance off the coastal areas all the more important.

“This is because human trafficking syndicates conduct their business on land. There are 15 secret routes used by syndicates to smuggle illegal immigrants along the Pengerang coast,” he added.

The Malaysian Armed Forces, assisted by the General Operation Force, has also posted officers to guard the Pengerang coast to check the entry of illegal immigrants.

Other than human trafficking, Pengerang is also used as a base to transfer fuel illegally, to smuggle cigarettes, for unlicensed cleaning of tankers and other illegal activities.

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