An official says Malaysian authorities are searching for 12 Afghans and four Myanmarese who escaped from a detention centre.

An immigration official says all the men are victims of human trafficking and were awaiting deportation. He says they fled Saturday from the centre near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The official spoke on condition of anonymity Monday citing protocol.

News reports say the men likely cut through a gate and scaled fences. Authorities are investigating.

The centre houses mostly illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. The Afghans were picked up at sea last October while they were being smuggled to Australia, reports said.

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