Malaysia vows to curb illegal migration to Australia

KUALA LUMPUR, August 4, 2010 (AFP) – Malaysia said Wednesday it was confident of halting the flow of illegal migrants to Australia, after introducing tough penalties for smugglers using the country as a transit point. Malaysia can now impose harsh sentences including jail terms of up to 20 years, and fines of up to 1.0 million ringgit (317,000 dollars) on people smugglers, under an amendment to human trafficking laws passed Tuesday.

Last year up to 10,000 migrants from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Iraq were said to be massing in Malaysia waiting for passage to Australia by people smugglers — a hot political issue for Australian leaders.

“We are confident that we will be able to curb boatpeople from going to Australia,” Muhamad Khair Razman Mohamed Annuar, a senior home ministry official, told a news conference.

“Previously people smuggling was not covered under anti-human trafficking or immigration laws so there was a grey area making it difficult for our enforcement agency,” said the ministry’s international division head.

Razman said there had been no new cases of boatpeople succeeding in reaching Australia via the Malaysian route since the two countries launched a joint eradication