IMMIGRATION officers are checking all private higher education colleges in Malaysia after a raid last week exposed 23 illegal lecturers, 17 of them British.
The lecturers, aged between 26 and 47, were arrested for working without permits at the International School in Bukit Kiara. They had entered Malaysia as tourists in September.
This is the biggest group of illegal foreign lecturers ever caught working at a higher education institute. It is the second case this year. Those arrested included 12 men and 11 women. Three were from New Zealand, two from Australia and one from the United States.
The education ministry this week approved applications for work permits from seven of the lecturers but rejected the rest.
Immigration officers also detained a senior manager. It is expected she will be charged under the Immigration Act for employing foreigners without permits. If convicted, she is liable to a minimum M$l0,000 (Pounds 1,700) fine for each foreigner illegally employed. She could also be jailed for between six months and five years.
The foreign lecturers, who have been released on bail, could receive fines of up to M$1,000 each, six months in jail, or both. The harshness of the action has worried other private colleges, which are suspected of employing lecturers to teach before their work permits have been granted.
Deputy home secretary Datuk Tajol Rosli Ghazalis said institutions were bombarding the education ministry with calls and seeking legal advice. They were told that colleges deliberately flouting the law on private higher education and immigration run the risk of being closed.
Last March immigration officials arrested a Canadian lecturer working without a permit at an international college in Taman Melawati. The college's human resources manager was fined M$3,000, and the lecturer M$200.