Nearly 200 Bangladeshis planning to enter Malaysia held in Medan

Bangladeshis gathered outside a police station following a raid on a shophouse in Medan. (AFP pic)

MEDAN: Almost 200 Bangladeshi men hoping to work in Malaysia were found crammed into a shophouse here, Indonesian authorities said today.

Police in the city of Medan, Sumatra, were tipped off about the group by residents living nearby.

When police raided the shophouse on Tuesday, they found 192 men, mostly in their 20s, occupying the two-storey building, with many complaining about lack of food, authorities said.

Officials said they believed the men had arrived from Bangladesh and were living in the cramped quarters for several months in the hope of going to neighbouring Malaysia for work.

“We think they arrived here by boat. They don’t have any documents,” Medan immigration head Fery Monang Sihite said.

“We’re still questioning them and will later decide whether we need to deport them or not.”

It was not immediately clear who owned the building or what role they may have played in the affair.

In recent years, Indonesia has seen hundreds of asylum seekers — mostly Afghans and minority Rohingya from Myanmar — arrive in the northern part of Sumatra.

In 2015, hundreds of Rohingya arrived ashore in Aceh, where they were welcomed in the staunchly-conservative Islamic province.

Indonesia has not ratified the UN convention on refugees and asylum seekers are usually not allowed to work in the country.