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JB customs complex is home to some

FREE LODGING: Some of the workers sleeping in the waiting area in JB Sentral, which is connected to the CIQ complex.
JB customs complex is home to some

WAKE-UP CALL: An auxiliary policeman trying to rouse a worker from sleep in the CIQ complex.


    Jul 10, 2014

    JB customs complex is home to some


    AT THE start of day, they move with the rush-hour crowd at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex, heading across the Causeway to Singapore.

    Queues form as early as 5am, and this group of Malaysian "backpackers" are usually there.

    After clearing Customs and immigration, they take buses and head into Singapore, where they are employed as factory workers and cleaners.

    They make their journey back to the CIQ complex after work in the evening, together with hordes of other returning Malaysian workers.

    This is where the similarity in their daily routine ends.

    The "backpackers" do not leave the CIQ complex - they spend their nights within its grounds and at JB Sentral.

    Numbering about 100, they work in Singapore and have been literally making themselves at home at JB Sentral (which is linked to the CIQ complex), despite being chased away repeatedly by security guards and the authorities.

    They use the public toilets to clean themselves and sleep on benches and chairs there. The air-conditioning at JB Sentral makes their nights comfortable.

    Food is not a problem, with 15 eateries offering a wide variety, some even round the clock.

    Cash is also easily accessible: There are several ATMs there.

    The CIQ complex was opened in December 2008 as the new visitor processing centre for Johor Baru.

    JB Sentral, which has a gross floor area of 89,417 sq m, is the only entry-exit point into the complex. It is used by an estimated 300,000 commuters daily.

    The "backpackers" were not cooperative when approached.

    One of them, who identified herself as Sally, claimed she was waiting for her passport to be issued.

    "I do not live here. I am just waiting for my documents to be sorted," she said, before heading to a corner of the complex where her belongings, including a transistor radio, slippers, talcum powder and toiletries, were kept in a pile.

    Another woman in her 30s said she was there "to wait for a friend".

    "I do not know what you are talking about,'' she retorted when asked what she was doing there.

    Several workers at a sundry shop in JB Sentral confirmed that the woman had been living in the building over the past fortnight.

    A male "backpacker" denied that he lived there and offered to show the contents of his backpack.

    The agitated man then went back to sleep.