People are silhouetted in front of posters calling for an end to people trafficking
Police in Malaysia have busted a Chinese people smuggling ring which tried to claim UN refugee status for its victims, they said Saturday.
Officers detained 16 Chinese nationals over allegations they were smuggling people from China to Thailand and into Malaysia, where they would then make false claims for refugee status, reports AFP.
Deputy national police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar said the suspected traffickers were arrested in Kuala Lumpur and in the southern state of Johor on August 6, and held under the country's tough internal security laws.
"We believe the suspects were involved in a syndicate trafficking people from China to Thailand before smuggling them into Malaysia," he was quoted as saying in the Star daily.
"Once here, they obtained fake travel documents before the victims were sent to other countries.
"The syndicate would also apply for real United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee cards claiming the victims were political refugees so they can stay in Malaysia for a longer period."
Police counter-terrorism task force head, Mohamad Fuzi Harun told the New Straits Times newspaper that 11 of the 16, who were on a Chinese human trafficking wanted list, were deported last Thursday.
He said the group was suspected of operating in Malaysia and Thailand for two years, adding that officers had seized fake Turkish passports and Malaysian identity cards, as well as more than 268,000 ringgit ($89,900) in various currencies.