KUCHING, March 23 — Immigration officers in “high-risk” areas will be transferred annually to prevent them from succumbing to corruption, said Sarawak Immigration chief Ken Leben.
Such areas include airports and immigration counters at border checkpoints, which he said were targeted by syndicates.
“This rotation system is one of the measures under our standard operating procedures (SOP) which we have implemented after the arrest of 11 officers for allegedly taking bribes to protect illegal immigrants in Sarawak two weeks ago,” he told reporters here.
The department has also formed a task force specifically for evaluating entry passes for investors and domestic helpers, which he said would remove the responsibility from senior officers.
Leben said the task force will also handle applications for work permits from oil-and-gas companies and under the spousal programme.
“We receive thousands of applications from agents or employers for work permits for maids, and it is too risky to let individual officers to hand the applications,” he said.
He then stressed that the arrests of 11 officers by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on March 15 were isolated incidents.
The 11 were detained in Kuching and Serian in the MACC's “Ops Batas” to weed out corrupt officers involved in letting illegal immigrants into the state. The MACC also seized RM10,000 from one suspect.
Leben said the department estimated there were up to 15,000 illegal immigrants in Sarawak who could be working in oil palm plantations, construction sites and factories.
“At the same time, there 154,864 registered immigrants as of last year, many of whom are Indonesians,” he said, adding that in 2015, there were 166,817 registered immigrants.
He said 5,980 illegal immigrants were arrested from 2014 to March 21 this year.