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Agents to blame for huge number of illegal foreign workers

Yahoo News, Malaysia, 29 July 2018 - ENFORCEMENT agencies that vowed to rid the country of all illegal immigrants must recognise the actual number out there to address this problem once and for all, said those in direct contact with labour-intensive economic sectors.

The number, they said, was far more than 600,000 that the Immigration Department had set out to nab after the June 30 deadline last year. That was the time when the department expected employers to legalise their illegal workers under the E-kad programme, which began on Feb 15 last year. They revealed that there were at least two illegal workers for every one that industry players employed legally.

Their total count? There are roughly four million foreigners working illegally in various industries.

Industry players, in coming clean, said “four million” was a realistic figure as it was almost the actual number they needed to sustain their operations.

If all these illegal workers were rounded up, it would cause serious ripple effects on the country’s economy, they said.

While admitting that they had employed illegal migrants, they said the blame should not be placed entirely on them as they had “done their part and paid their dues”.

They said Putrajaya and Immigration should look into the operations of many government-appointed outsourcing companies supposedly entrusted to ensure the sound management of imported labour.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor said the problem could be traced to these agencies, which brought in masses of foreign workers, sometimes exceeding the demand.

“They bring in as many as they can without taking into consideration the industries’ needs.

“They serve as one-off suppliers and that is it. By right, they have to make sure these workers’ permits remain valid throughout their employment as businesses that engaged them had paid a lump sum for “hassle-free” employment of the foreigners.

“Companies which use these workers at their business premises will not bear any other expenses as these outsourcing agencies are these migrants’ ‘rightful’ employers,” said Halim.

Echoing him was Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Datuk Soh Thian Lai, who said 100 of its members had signed a letter to the Home Ministry to look into their case.

“We have no desire to employ illegal workers, but who is really to be blamed in the first place?

“The government previously appointed many third-party agents, who brought in a lot of foreign workers illegally,” he said, adding that his organisation understood the aim to clear out illegal workers in the country, but was asking for more time.

“They can act after that. If they do it immediately, many industries will suffer greatly,” he said.

Asked why FMM members did not take the opportunity to legalise their workers through the rehiring programme last year, Soh said they had two major issues — the high price and hassle involved.

The government, he said should address the root cause of the illegal workers issue, which was the involvement of third-party agents.

Going after illegal workers now, he said, would only disrupt businesses and adversely impact the economy.


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