Some workers resort to desperate measures
to avoid detention
Immigration is high on the political agenda of most countries.

Most often the issue is framed as a 'problem', with both legal and illegal immigrants demonised as cultural and economic threats to the nation.

In Malaysia, the issue of illegal immigration is seen as such a problem that the country has gone to extraordinary lengths to tackle it.

The Malaysian government has created a citizen army called RELA and granted its members free rein to investigate and detain anyone they consider suspicious.

It is an army that almost anyone can join.

Malaysia's armed forces consist of some 110,000 trained and supervised personnel. There are 90,000 police officers, while the new RELA force consists of some 450,000 ordinary citizens.

Sharmila Sekaran from the Malaysia
Human Rights Society

Training of recruits consists of a short 'familiarisation' course and subsequent supervision is minimal.

Despite this, all members are authorised to enter premises without a warrant, to stop and search suspects without a warrant, to make arrests without a warrant, and to carry firearms.

RELA is paid $23 for every illegal immigrant arrested and its members are immune from any prosecution arising from their activities.

Since these powers were granted some 18 months ago, RELA members have been accused of assault, theft, destruction of property and harassment.

Ambiga Sreenivasan, the Malaysian Bar Council chief, Dr Rahman, the Malaysian MP for Gombak, and Sharmila Sekaran from the Malaysian National Human Rights Society join 101 East to discuss this issue.

Watch this episode of 101 East here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

This episode of 101 East aired from 25 May 2007

101 East airs at 16:30GMT every Thursday on Al Jazeera English and is repeated during the week.

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Source: Al Jazeera