Putrajaya: Agents who withheld the passports of foreign workers risked being charged for human trafficking, Immigration Department enforcement director Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz said. “The law dictates that foreigners must be in possession of their passports at all times.

“Unless the passports are withheld as part of managing the foreign workers under the 6P programme, action can be taken under the Anti-Trafficking of Persons (Amendment) Bill 2010 (ATIP) for illegally withholding the documents,” he said yesterday.

Under ATIP, culprits could be slapped with fines of up to RM1 million or send to jail for up to 20 years, or both.

He was speaking to reporters after a joint raid under the 6P programme involving 180 officers from five agencies at two areas in Puchong.

Mohd Zamberi said some of those arrested had claimed that their passports were being withheld by their agents.

He also urged more resident associations to play a more active role in tackling issues relating to foreigners, citing yesterday’s raid as an example which saw authorities take action following complaints by the locals.

Among the main grouses by the residents in the two areas were that the foreigners were either disturbing the peace or involved in illegal activities. “One cannot depend on the Immigration department alone. We need the help of the local community to tackle this issue as they would be more attune to what is happening.

“If they give the correct information, like the location or address of foreigners, it would make such checks easier,” he said.

Mohd Zamberi revealed that the department receives an average of 1,000 complaints about illegal immigrants from resident associations a year.

To date, 5,868 raids had been carried out by authorities, with 20,112 foreigners and 512 employers arrested since enforcement started in October last year. –Sean Augustin, Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/latest/withholding-foreigners-passports-illegal-1.124666#ixzz23WkanMio