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No end to the issue of foreign workers

  • Sporadic enforcement, fines and voluntary repatriation program, etc. will only solve part of the problem.

Sin Chew Daily

Immigration Dept director-general Mustafar Ali announced that beginning Sept 1, employers failing to settle the fines and illegal foreign workers will all be blacklisted and barred from leaving the country, under the rehiring program for foreign workers. The employers will also not be able to apply for passports and other travel documents from the department.

Under the program, employers must pay RM500 fines for each illegal foreign worker hired, and violators will be blacklisted. They will still need to settle all their fines or they will not be able to leave the country the next time they want to travel overseas.

As for the foreign workers, they can opt for 3+1 voluntary repatriation program by paying RM300 fine and RM100 for special permit in order to leave the country. Their biometric data will be recorded and will not be allowed to work in Malaysia again in the future.

The current program began on February 15, 2016 and ended on June 30 this year. Some 26,200 illegal foreign workers were arrested in a total of 8,694 operations carried out since the beginning of the year, and more than 700 employers have been punished.

Prior to this, we had the 6P program in 2012 with the objective of registering and collecting fingerprints and other biometric data from illegal foreign workers to ensure that they will not be able to re-enter the country with a different identity in future.

The re-initiation of the 6P program and the extension of 3+1 voluntary repatriation program show that the issue of illegal foreign workers in this country has yet to be resolved despite years of efforts from the authorities.

This issue has been a consequence of our over-dependence on foreign workers along with excessive fees to legally hire them. The irresponsible attitude on the part of some enforcement officials and foreign worker agencies has further exacerbated the problem.

Malaysia began to recruit foreign workers about 40 years ago, and after so many years, foreign workers have completely assimilated themselves into the Malaysian society although many of us have no way to tell who among so many of them are legally hired and who are not.

Sporadic enforcement, fines and voluntary repatriation program, etc. will only solve part of the problem. We need more effective strategies to resolve the issue once and for all.

If these foreign workers are allowed to travel in and out of our long and often loosely guarded shoreline, local employers are willing to hire them illegally and demand for foreign workers remains high in this country, we won't be able to estimate the total number of illegal foreign workers here and the sectors they are involved in. The authorities' round-up operations and "bleaching" program every now and then will become a routine exercise that will never end.

 

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