Afghan Deportees ‘Heading To Australia’

Afghan escapees 'heading to Australia'

Agence France-Presse, August 3, 2010

A manhunt has been launched in Malaysia for 20 Afghan migrants who fled a detention centre and may be planning to travel illicitly to Australia, police said today.

The Afghans escaped on Sunday from a high security holding centre at Kuala Lumpur International Airport near the capital, in the second such embarrassing episode in five months.

Police said the group entered Malaysia planning to escape to Australia via Indonesia, said Khalid Abu Bakar, police chief in the central Selangor state.

'We have not been able to arrest any of them. We are still searching for them,' he said.

Mr Khalid said the 20 men had been held for over a month at the centre and may have escaped with inside help.

'We believe they are still in the country. We have plugged all our exit points. They will possibly try to leave the country by sea,' he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last year said his country was being used as a transit point for illegal immigrants.

Anti-human trafficking activists say Malaysia is used as a staging post for gangs moving people from Afghanistan and Myanmar to Indonesia and Australia. Over 100 migrants have reportedly been caught this year on the route.

Newspaper reports today said 20 immigration officers who were on duty during the incident have been suspended pending investigation.

Twelve Afghan and four Myanmar nationals escaped from the same centre in March.