LANGKAWI: Cramped into big boats, hundreds of illegal immigrants willingly risk their lives as they brave the seas to arrive uninvited on Malaysian soil, using their deplorable conditions to gain the sympathy of the authorities here.
As recently as June this year, 269 of these illegal immigrants attempted to enter Malaysian waters, their boat purposely damaged, its engine beyond repair, so as to avoid eviction by the authorities.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) saved them purely on humanitarian grounds and assisted by local fishermen, towed their boat to a nearby jetty.
On board it were women and children who were placed on the top deck while the men were below the boat’s engine as they had been when they travelled many months across the sea.
When Bernama visited the boat docked at Bukit Malut here, the stench of bodies squashed together in a dirty boat for months mixed with the smell of diesel was unimaginable.
In a tiny area which had been turned into a kitchen was a pot of rice, infested with squirming maggots and abandoned when the immigrants were arrested by the authorities.
According to Kedah and Perlis MMEA deputy director Maritime Capt Zulinda Ramly when authorities arrested 269 illegal immigrants recently, an inspection on the boat also found the dead body of a woman.
She said early investigations found the 269 undocumented immigrants on board but others had died during the journey and their bodies thrown into the sea.
“About 50 bodies were dumped into international waters as they died during the journey before reaching Malaysia.
“The rest of them continued their journey here but about 50 jumped off the boat after their presence was detected by authorities near Teluk Nibong,” she told Bernama in an exclusive interview with the National Task Force (NTF) here.
Speaking further, Zulinda said MMEA together with Marine Police Force rescued all of them and brought them back to their boat to be evicted to international waters, but the attempt failed as they had purposely damaged the boat and engine.
“When the MMEA checked, half of the first generator had been submerged in the water at chest level,” she said.
She added that the boat was later towed to shallow waters and the water pumped out but was damaged as too much water had entered it.
MMEA then requested assistance from the local fishermen to tow the illegal boat to the northern waters near Pantai Pasir Tengkorak here and bring the boat to a cement factory jetty with the help of Marine police.
On June 8, Bernama reported authorities intercepted a boat, carrying 269 Rohingyas, trying to enter Langkawi waters early this morning and found a woman’s body in it.
Zulinda said for this year alone, MMEA has detained four boats - one in March, two in April, and another one in June. — Bernama