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Jan 29, 2008

Suhakam: Don't jail them, send them home (The Star)

TAIPING: The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has proposed that foreigners nabbed for immigration offences be sent home rather than undergo due process of law, saying this could help alleviate overcrowding in prisons.

Suhakam Commissioner Datuk Khalid Ibrahim said from the visits made by Suhakam to 48 prisons and detention centres last year, it was found that about 40% of the detainees were illegal foreigners.

Citing an example, he said the Sungai Buloh prison in Selangor was meant to house only 2,000 prisoners but now had about 5,000.

“This inevitably caused stress on prison warders and at the same time affected the welfare of both the prisoners and prison warders too,” he told reporters after holding a Suhakam roadshow at the Taiping Resort Golf and Country Club here on Monday.

Also present was Suhakam Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam.

Khalid said plans to construct new prisons and introduce a parole system would not be effective in alleviating the situation as more foreigners were expected to arrive in the country.

This was made worse by the move to encourage more foreign tourists to visit the country.

“Those coming from Asean countries automatically get a three-month visa on arrival at the airport,” he said, adding that many were later caught for over-staying.

He said some remand prisoners who were charged with offences, which normally get less than a year’s jail term, had instead been confined to more than two years in prison.

He said under the current system, a foreigner caught for overstaying would be detained about six months before being produced in court. Once their cases had been decided, the foreigners would have to be sent back to prison to serve their sentences for another six months before they were repatriated.

Khalid said their presence in detention centres and prisons was also a financial strain.


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