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Illegal Aliens in Malaysia Struggle

April 10, 1998

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Dozens of Indonesian illegal immigrants, driven to desperation by a mass-deportation campaign, scaled the walls of foreign embassies today seeking political asylum.

Eight illegal immigrants jumped over the walls of the U.S. Embassy, spokesman James Warren said.

The eight are to remain until American officials have determined the status of the men, who say they come from Aceh, an independence-seeking region of Indonesia.

Warren said another 29 Acehnese jumped over walls around the Swiss, French and Brunei embassies, but that police were allowed to enter those embassies to arrest them.

``The police have come _ we just haven’t let them come in and take them away,″ he said.

More than 40 red-helmeted police officers surrounded the U.S. Embassy. Four red police trucks normally used for prisoners were parked next to the compound.

Seeking to protect jobs and its own weak economy, Malaysia is trying to deport 200,000 illegal immigrants from Indonesia by Aug. 15.

Human rights officials fear that some of the thousands of Indonesians already ousted are political refugees who face persecution or death if sent home.

Elizabeth Wong, coordinator for the Malaysian human rights group SUARAM, condemned the embassies that turned the Acehnese over to the police.

``If this had happened in their own countries there would be a huge outcry by their citizens,″ she said. ``They could have just picked up the phone and called UNHCR.″

But Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Franz Egle in Geneva said the UNHCR refused to get involved. He said the Acehnese attacked two security guards and ``attempted to gain entry to the embassy building by violent means.″

Ambassador Max Dahinden told Egle that none of the illegal aliens asked for asylum.

French Embassy officials declined to comment today and referred all calls to the Foreign Ministry in Paris. A spokesman there said there would be no information until later in the day.

For their part, Brunei officials denied immigrants had entered their compound.

Razali Abdullah of the Acehnese Refugee Committee in Malaysia said those who sought refuge in the embassies were among 105 Acehnese who escaped a detention camp on March 26.

``It’s the only way to save their lives,″ Razali said.

Fourteen Acehnese rammed a truck through the UNHCR compound on March 30 and remained there today. U.N. officials have said they would be allowed to stay until they determine their refugee status.

Prior to Southeast Asia’s economic crisis, foreign workers had been welcomed here. Of its 8-million-member labor force, 3 million are migrant workers, and half of those are Indonesian.

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