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Malaysia Increases Surveillance as Human Trafficking Increases

  • Luke Hunt

In Malaysia, authorities have increased border surveillance amid reports that people-smuggling is on the increase as more Afghans arrive seeking illegal passage to third countries like Australia.

Afghans hoping to escape years of conflict in their home country are legally arriving in increasing numbers in Malaysia where most are automatically granted a three-month tourist visa.

Once here, the dealings begin between local agents and Afghans prepared to spend up to $15,000 for a boat ride to Australia. The vessels are rickety, the trip dangerous, and customs officials at the other end are always unwelcoming towards illegal immigrants.

A Jakarta-based regional security analyst with Concord Consulting, Keith Loveard, says countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have made a significant effort in dealing with the issue. But he says the problem needs to be tackled at the root causes in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

"Until such time as you get some meaningful economic progress in those countries, you are not going to have much appeal for the middle people who have normal middle-class aspirations for themselves and children to stay and do something about it," said Loveard. "They do not see a way out of there, so they are willing to take enormous chances to find an alternative."

Of the hundreds that have attempted the sea crossing to Australia this year, some have drowned and many more have been turned back or deported to their country of origin, after losing their life savings.

The few that made it to Australia's shores faced growing public hostility and a lengthy period in detention while the authorities process their claims. Most are then forcibly repatriated back to Afghanistan or the border camps of Pakistan.

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