Malaysia plans to deport foreign prisoners and allow them to serve out the rest of their sentences in their home countries to cut costs and overcrowding in local jails, reports said Tuesday.
Proposed legal amendments will allow a prisoner-transfer agreement with other countries to ease congestion in Malaysia's 30 prisons, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.
"As of May, 41 percent or 15,279 of the 37,242 inmates serving time in our jails are foreigners," the minister told the New Straits Times newspaper.
"Not only are the prisons congested but there is also the high cost of management that would be a burden to the country if this continues," he added.
The agreement would also allow Malaysians jailed overseas to return to prisons back home to serve the remainder of their sentences. The report did not say how many Malaysians were believed to be held in prisons abroad.
No nationality breakdown was given for the foreign prisoner population in Malaysia, one of Asia's largest importers of labour with an estimated 2.2 million guests workers largely employed in the plantation, manufacturing, construction and service sectors.
The current capacity of prisons nationwide is only 32,200. The government recently approved the building of 16 new prisons with a combined holding capacity of 18,000, the Star newspaper reported.
Malaysia has already introduced an early-release programme for prisoners who demonstrate good conduct as part of its plan to cut costs and overcrowding in prisons.
It has also introduced alternative non-prison sentences and community service orders for minor offences.