Malaysia deports people-smuggler suspect
Grant Holloway
5 December 2001

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Malaysia's Immigration Department will deport an Iraqi believed to be a key player in people smuggling operations targeting Australia.

Malaysia's national news agency Bernama reports Naeil Ahmad Abdullah will be sent back to Iraq on Wednesday after he was arrested while trying to renew his visitor's permit.

Naeil was detained on November 9 in an operation codenamed "Operasi Piscine" involving Malaysian and Australian enforcement authorities.

While Naeil has not been found guilty of breaching any of Malaysia's immigration laws, Australia's federal police believe the Iraqi is responsible for transporting thousands of illegal migrants from the Middle East to Australia over the past five years.

Coordinator for transnational crime operations, Shane Castles, told CNN earlier this week Naeil was thought to be one of six to eight major players using Malaysia as a base for people-smuggling.

Castles said Naeil was believed to have been a very active operator and his removal from the people-smuggling business via deportation should have a measurable impact on the numbers of people eventually arriving on Australian shores.

More than 9,000 boat people have arrived in Australia over the past two years, most fleeing religious persecution and war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While a small number by international standards, Australia has taken a tough stance on boat people following an international incident in August when a Norwegian freighter carrying rescued boat people was denied permission to land the human cargo in Australia.

Since then, Australian navy and customs vessels have been either turning the boats back to international waters or transporting the asylum seekers to detention camps in the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Typically the boat people pay between $1,000 and $5,000 each to the people smugglers for the trip to Australia.

Castles said the Australian Federal Police had worked closely with the Royal Malaysian Police to arrest Naeil and more Malaysian-based people smugglers were being targeted.

He said Australian Immigration Department figures suggested between 70 and 80 percent of recent boat arrivals had been organized by Malaysian operators.

Naeil was believed to have been working out of Malaysia's Rawang region.

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