They were found crouched in concealed rooms, secret compartments in ceilings, behind walls and even under floorboards.
But they did not remain hidden for long and were among the more than 1,000 illegal immigrants nabbed in the nation’s biggest-ever operation to flush out unwanted foreigners.
The operation, code named Ops 6P Bersepadu, began at midnight on Saturday.
It was conducted by enforcement personnel from the Immigration Department, police, Armed Forces, Rela, Civil Defense, National Registration Department and local councils.
The weapons seized during the crackdown included a samurai sword, hammers and parang.
The enforcement officers also uncovered a secret passage in an entertainment outlet in Melaka Raya, Malacca, used as an escape route.
Immigration Department deputy director (Enforcement) M. Saravana Kumar said the illegals tried to elude capture by hiding in “special compartments” created in buildings.
“We found secret rooms built behind walls, between ceilings and roofs and also under the floors of the makeshift squatter homes.
“As for pubs, discos and massage parlors, many had hidden passages for illegals to flee from raids,” he said.
Saravana Kumar said the operation would mainly target squatter houses, plantations and farms, entertainment outlets and massage parlors across the country.
He said those arrested would be investigated under Sections 6, 15(4) and 55 of the Immigration Act.
“The illegals will be deported immediately while their employers can be fined up to 50,000 ringgit ($15,000) or be jailed up to five years, given six strokes of the cane or all three.
“We are sending out a clear warning to employers not to hire illegal immigrants,” he said in Putrajaya yesterday.
The first phase of the operation, to last until the end of 2013, would involve about 135,000 personnel.
The Immigration Department expects to arrest about 400,000 illegal immigrants and charge some 45,000 employers believed to have hired them.
Ops 6P Bersepadu is aimed at those who registered under the Illegal Immigrant Comprehensive Settlement Program in 2011 but did not turn up for further processing, including legalization and voluntary deportation.
During the registration that ended in October 2011, about 1.3 million of the estimated 2 million undocumented foreigners registered themselves with the Immigration Department.
Of these, 500,000 applications for legalization were processed and 330,000 illegals were repatriated.
(News Desk, The Star)