JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Johor Immigration Department will start monitoring exit points round-the-clock to prevent people from entering Singapore illegally.
Its director Rohaizi Bahari said the department had launched an operation codenamed Ops Ikrar (Serkap) yesterday to nab these people.
He said 36 Malaysians and a Singaporean man were detained at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex following the operation from 5am until 8am.
The operation was launched following a news report in The Star on June 25 that some Malaysians working in Singapore were bypassing the Johor CIQ complex.
Mr Rohaizi said although those bypassing the Johor CIQ had valid Singapore work permits, it is still a serious offence to exit the country illegally.
He said although they may possess valid Malaysian passports, some of them could have been barred from leaving the country due to several reasons, such as being declared bankrupt.
Mr Rohaizi said they were caught while walking along the Johor Baru-Singapore railway line along the Causeway.
They shun the proper channels at the CIQ complex just to avoid the congestion at the checkpoints every morning, he said.
Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he was shocked to hear about the illegal route near the complex.
"I will be contacting the relevant agencies to beef up security. I view this seriously as it is not good for relations between the two countries," he told The Star yesterday.
Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi said he was aware of the issue, and added that it was not just a problem in Johor but nationwide.
"Although agencies under the Home Ministry are stationed at all CIQs, the complex comes under the purview of the national security council and we have had discussions with the minister concerned about the problems," he said.
Dr Wan Junaidi said among the suggestions were a 4km fence around all CIQs nationwide, additional security personnel and more close circuit cameras.
A security official at the Johor CIQ said there were not enough CCTVs to monitor all the 300 bus, motorcycle, car and lorry entry and exit points.
"In fact, owing to budget constraints, the immigration booths do not have CCTVs and there are also no speed breakers to slow down the vehicles," the official said.
Since the Malaysian passport is electronic and does not need to be stamped, Singapore Immigration officers will not be alerted if the holder bypasses the Johor CIQ.
The databases of the Malaysian and Singapore immigration authorities are not linked.