KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia has begun taking fingerprints from foreigners entering the country in a bid to prevent illegal immigrants coming in using fake papers, an official said Thursday.
Up to two million people -- mostly from neighbouring Indonesia and Myanmar -- work in Malaysia illegally, authorities say. Those arrested for working illegally or overstaying are deported but many try to return.
A pilot system, implemented at several entry points like the Kuala Lumpur International Airport since late last month, requires visitors to give prints of both index fingers, immigration spokesman Abdul Haidir Mohamad Sukor said.
He said the biometric system was expected to be implemented nationwide from June 1.
Malaysia has one of Asia's largest populations of foreign workers. Some 1.8 million people, mostly from poorer regional countries, work in such sectors as construction, plantations, manufacturing and hospitality.
The new scheme will help authorities keep better track of foreigners, said Abdul Haidir, with those caught overstaying or committing any other offences now unable to re-enter Malaysia under different identities.
"Starting from June 1, all foreigners must give their data," Abdul Haidir told AFP. "We collect all the data to ensure we can detect problems earlier, if they have committed any offence before."
"Before this in Malaysia, the overstayers are just sent back but they can come back with fake passports. With the biometric system, they cannot lie," he said.