Plaza Low Yat, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Google Maps

Several Malaysian authorities joined forces in a crackdown operation on illegal workers in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, intercepting 85 foreigners, about half of whom were arrested.

The Immigration Department of Malaysia, the Companies Commission of Malaysia, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, the National Registration Department and the Malaysian Police jointly sent 122 officials to intercept suspicious foreign nationals inside Plaza Low Yat, a shopping centre specializing in electronics and information-technology products, Sin Chew Daily reported.

By 4pm on Tuesday, 85 foreigners had been inspected, of whom 36 men and four women were arrested. Authorities detained 16 men from Bangladesh, six men from Pakistan, 10 men from Myanmar, one man each from Somalia, Sudan, Papua New Guinea and Nigeria, three Myanmar women and one Indonesian woman.

All 40 suspects failed to produce valid identification or visa documents, and some were allegedly violating their conditions of stay.

The suspects claimed that they were not engaging in any form of employment in Malaysia, and that they were simply shopping, dining or visiting the washrooms at the mall.

Police took them to a detention center in Bukit Jalil, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, for further investigation.

According to a report in Guang Ming Daily, as of August 24, the Immigration Department of Malaysia had conducted 9,793 operations this year in which the identifications of 115,711 foreign persons were checked. The number of arrested illegal workers who had been repatriated had reached 36,872.

In Kuala Lumpur alone, 4,505 illegal workers and 129 employers accused of hiring such workers have been arrested so far this year.

According to Malaysian law, employing illegal workers is a violation of Section 55B of the Immigration Act 1959/63. Any person who employs at least one illegal worker is liable to a fine of not more than 50,000 ringgit (US$11,700) and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12  months.

Those who hire more than five illegal workers may be jailed for up to five years and are liable to whipping of not more than six strokes.