Disease rife in Indonesian camps

More than 7500 Indonesians who fled Malaysia before a government crackdown on illegal workers are living in squatter camps on a border island where respiratory diseases and malaria are rife, officials say.

    About 7650 workers are living in 32 camps on a border island

    Most were waiting on Indonesia's Nunaken island, which

    is just south of Malaysia's Sabah state, for permission

    to return to Malaysia to work legally.

    In 2002, the last time Malaysia launched a crackdown on

    illegal workers, about 25,000 Indonesians crowded on to the

    island.

    At least 30 died from diseases in the cramped

    and unsanitary conditions.

    Local Indonesian Red Cross chief Mesdiono on Friday said about 7650

    workers were living in 32 camps on the island.

    "We have treated around 4000 workers suffering from

    diseases ranging from diarrhoea, skin problems and

    respiratory illness to malaria," said Mesdiono.

    "The conditions in the camps are not

    ideal and unsanitary. This leads to illnesses."

    Passports processed

    Ade Dahlan, the head of the island's immigration office,

    said officials had processed about 4000 passports since

    late last month.

    Most of the prospective workers were

    waiting for permission from Malaysian authorities to

    return, he said.

    Malaysia launched a nationwide crackdown on illegal im

    migrants after a four-month amnesty ended at midnight on

    Monday.

    As of Wednesday, the authorities had arrested 580

    illegal workers - a tiny fraction of an estimated 400,000

    illegals still in Malaysia after the amnesty.

    About

    450,000 are thought to have left during the amnesty.

    Foreign workers from Indonesia, the Philippines,

    Bangladesh and India form the backbone of Malaysia's

    construction and plantation industries, doing lowly-paid jobs

    that Malaysians will not do.

    About one million foreigners work

    there legally.

    The Malaysian government has vowed to evict all illegal

    workers, who have been blamed by many for rising crime.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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