Malaysian police caught 98 Indonesian illegal immigrants who had been waiting in a swamp for days to return home on boats, an official said on Wednesday. The Indonesians, including four young children, were picked up Tuesday in a mangrove swamp in central Selangor state, state marine police Chief Marzuki Ismail said.
Two boats waiting to transport them were also found. He said the group had been staying in the swamp without proper shelter, food or water for about a week, waiting to be taken back to neighboring Indonesia.
Each person is believed to have paid up to 800 ringgit ($230) for the planned trip. Marzuki said police were still looking for the agents. About a dozen other Indonesians managed to escape police, and those caught were too weak to get away, he said. "It seems those 98 were very weak ... so they couldn't escape. They didn't get any food for a week," he said.
All are in police custody and may be charged with being in Malaysia illegally, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail and caning.
The Indonesian Embassy estimates some 800,000 Indonesians live in Malaysia without valid immigration documents. Many are employed in plantations, construction sites and restaurants. Dozens have died in recent months when the rickety, overcrowded boats they were traveling in sank.