Malaysia's government will keep fingerprints and photographs of illegal immigrants caught in a major crackdown on Borneo island on file to bar them from returning, news reports said on Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said 500 people without valid immigration papers, mostly Filipinos, have been detained so far in raids that began last week in eastern Sabah state, which borders the Philippines and Indonesia, The Star and New Straits Times newspapers reported.
Authorities have estimated there are some 130,000 illegal immigrants in Sabah. But the state's politicians insist the real figure is several times that and complain that the immigrants are responsible for unemployment among Malaysians and crime. Najib, speaking to reporters while visiting Sabah on Tuesday, said officials were documenting the identities of illegal immigrants before deporting them.
"Though they may try to come back legally in the future, they will be denied entry," Najib was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
Najib's aide could not immediately confirm the reports. Najib gave an assurance that the detainees would not suffer mistreatment, the reports said. Human rights groups have voiced concerns that detainees might face inadequate health care, overcrowding and other problems.