- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia The Malaysian government yesterday defended its use of whipping and other tough new punishments aimed at forcing out illegal immigrants after the Philippines protested mistreatment that resulted in the death of three Filipino children during deportation.
Philippine officials said migrants are rounded up by Malaysian authorities into crowded detention facilities, sometimes without food and water.
"The conditions in the detention centers are unduly harsh and could be immediately improved. The congestion is appalling," Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople told reporters in Manila after lodging the protest with the Malaysian ambassador.
In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, demonstrators burned a Malaysian flag and tried to force their way into the Malaysian Embassy on Monday in a protest of the crackdown.
Since Aug. 1, authorities have been enforcing new laws that allow whipping, imprisonment and large fines for illegal foreign workers in relatively wealthy Malaysia, which has become a magnet for migrants from its poorer Southeast Asian neighbors. Dozens of people have been sentenced to prison terms and strokes with rattan canes.
Malaysian officials estimated up to 600,000 illegal workers were in Malaysia before the laws were introduced. An estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants fled Malaysia during a prosecution amnesty before the August deadline.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar yesterday said the Indonesian protesters were overreacting to the new laws and urged Jakarta to rein in the demonstrations.
"They should know how to separate emotions from facts; our relations are too important to be jeopardized," Mr. Albar was quoted as saying by the Bernama national news agency.
Malaysia's ambassador in Manila, Mohamad Taufik, who received the Philippine protest, acknowledged overcrowding in the migrant detention centers but said expulsions would continue.
"We don't deny because the number is just too great for the centers to hold them. I will convey the concern on the condition and leave to the government what to do next," he said of the protest.
But in the Philippines, where thousands of deportees from Malaysia have been arriving, the policy has provoked outrage. One senator, Ralph Recto, called the measures "ethnic cleansing."
Three Filipino children have died as they were being deported from the Malaysian state of Sabah, on Borneo Island one Saturday at a Malaysian detention center, another aboard a Philippine navy ship prior to departing Malaysia, and a third Monday after returning to the Philippines, a Philippine Foreign Affairs Department spokesman said.
Mr. Ople said the Philippines has asked Malaysia "not to force the very sick and infirm to be deported," saying they should be hospitalized first.
In the Philippines' southern entry points, doctors and welfare officials were attending to hundreds of deportees arriving from Sabah, including women and children.
More than 1,500 deported Filipinos arrived Monday aboard a Philippine Navy ship. Another 1,525 are expected today.
Some 60,000 Filipinos have returned from Malaysia so far this year and about 4,000 are awaiting deportation, Philippine officials said.

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