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Malaysia mulls freezing intake of foreign workers

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9, 2011 (AFP) - Malaysia is considering freezing the intake of foreign workers if it grants an amnesty and the right to work to the estimated two million illegal immigrants, a senior official said Thursday.

Malaysia has one of Asia's largest populations of foreign labourers, mostly from other Southeast Asian countries, who do menial work shunned by locals in such industries as plantations, construction, manufacturing and services.

A cabinet committee will decide later this month whether to approve a proposal to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, home ministry deputy secretary general Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap told AFP.

Authorities estimate up to two million people live and work in Malaysia illegally, in addition to another two million legal foreign workers.

The amnesty proposal came from the cabinet committee's workshop last year to address the issue of legal and illegal foreign workers, Raja Azahar said.

He said those without documents would need to get employers to sponsor them to be able to work under the new scheme. Those without work would have to leave the country.

"If the government decides for the amnesty programme, then we will freeze the intake (of other foreign workers)," he said.

"We give (those who are illegal) a chance. If they want to work, they can apply but they have to look for sponsors," Raja Azahar added.

He could not say how long the amnesty programme would last nor how many jobs, or which industries, would be filled this way.

If the cabinet committee meeting on June 22 approves the proposal, the freeze on foreign workers will start July 1, he said.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said earlier this week that the scheme would allow illegal immigrants to gain employment and not be exploited by human traffickers.



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