KUALA LUMPUR - SIXTEEN migrants were on the run on Monday after cutting their way out of a detention centre at Malaysia's main international airport, immigration officials said.
The group, 12 Afghan and four Myanmar nationals, got through the gate of a facility at Kuala Lumpur airport where officials said they were being held for their own protection.
'The 16 are believed to have cut through the wire mesh of the gate and escaped the centre where they were being protected from human trafficking syndicates,' Selangor state immigration chief Johari Yusof said.
'The Afghans were part of a group of 18 we had rescued in October last year from a ship adrift off our coast as these malnourished victims who were on the verge of death from starvation were being smuggled to a third country,' he added. Mr Johari said police were looking for the group.
Immigration activists say Malaysia is often used as a staging post for trafficking gangs moving people from Afghanistan and Myanmar to Indonesia and Australia. Earlier this month, maritime authorities picked up 93 members of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority who had drifted aboard a boat for 30 days after fleeing their country.
Malaysian police last July arrested five immigration officials for involvement in an international syndicate that smuggled Rohingya refugees into the country. With one of Asia's largest populations of foreign labour, Malaysia relies on its 2.2 million migrants to clean homes, care for children and work in plantations and factories. -- AFP