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Thousands of illegal immigrants flee Malaysia as government begins crackdown

[JURIST] Thousands of illegal immigrants fled Malaysia Monday as the Malaysian government [official portal; English version] prepared to launch a campaign to round up and deport illegal foreign workers. January 31 is the last day of a three-month amnesty granted to illegals to leave the country without punishment. On Tuesday, the government plans to launch a task force of 500,000 police officers and volunteers to hunt down any remaining illegal immigrants. Those caught can be jailed for five years and deported. Men younger than 50 can be whipped. The Malaysian Immigration Department [official website] said about 340,000 people had left the country under the amnesty, and estimated that about 400,000 such immigrants remain. Malaysia's economy suffers from a shortage of unskilled workers, and thus attracts many immigrants from nearby Indonesia. In 2002, the government initiated a similar crackdown on illegal workers, which drew complaints of human rights abuses. Reuters has more. The Malaysian Star provides local coverage. Last month, Amnesty International published a report [text] documenting Malaysia's abuses of immigrants, and urging the Malaysian government to halt the deportation until adequate human rights for the migrant workers were assured.

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