In a bid to fulfill the needs of the employment sector, temporary Enforcement Cards (E-Kad) will be issued to illegal immigrants with employment so that they are hired legally.
Though the move would assist in the monitoring and controlling of illegal immigrants, as well as in enforcement and tracking, the question is, is it a viable solution to the never ending issues involving foreign workers?
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Abdul Halim Mansor said without thorough supervision, the programme could cause greater repercussions to the country, as well as aggravate the situation.
Abdul Halim said it is feared that the programme would give the wrong perception on the country and would be taken advantage of by the illegal immigrants.
“We have become a country that accepts illegal immigrants and gives them a chance to obtain a permit without being deported, when they should actually be tracked down, detained and deported.
“When illegal immigrants are accepted and made legal, it’s not impossible that they will invite their family and friends to join them here illegally, knowing that they will eventually be legal. They won’t worry about entering the country because Malaysia is too lenient,” he said.
Illegal immigrants, Abdul Halim (photo) said, were basically ‘criminals’, because they had trespassed, so there was no reason for them to be accepted in the country.
“Illegal immigrants break the law and threaten the country’s sovereignty when they enter the country illegally, so why should they be legalised? It’s like they’re being rewarded, despite they disregarding our law.
“Without valid documents, we don’t know the origin or the background of these foreigners. They may have been involved in crimes or are terrorists, so when we accept illegal immigrants we need to be ready for the possibility of negative consequences,” he added.
The government, he said, should look for a more effective long-term measure to drive out illegal immigrants and at the same time, take a tough stand on those with the intention of coming into the country illegally.
Competition among workers
Abdul Halim noted that competition between immigrants and locals in securing employment is among the issues raised, as employers preferred foreigners for a number of reasons.
“We need to ensure there is no discrimination towards locals as their salary is higher than that of a foreigner, plus a good employee protection scheme like Employee Provident Fund contribution and Socso (Social Security Organisation).
“Many locals need jobs, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak. Employers should give priority to locals when it comes to hiring,” he added.
He said employers who hire illegal immigrants should state where or how they obtained them, and should also be penalised if they hired workers without a valid permit.
“The government should not give in to employers by seeking a shortcut. The Home Ministry and relevant ministries, including the Human Resource Ministry, should further study the impact to ensure no loopholes in implementation.
“When implemented, how will the government make sure employers pay the minimum wage to their foreign workers and do not discriminate them?” he continued.
Abdul Halim suggested that job agencies, as middleman in providing foreign labour, be abolished and replaced with a system whereby employers directly apply for and register their foreign workers.
“This way, the government can deal directly with the company or employer, without the need to go through an agency. Then, there should be a contract and worker protection scheme so that foreign workers cannot run and work elsewhere,” he said.
A win-win approach
Contrary to Halim’s opinion, Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein described the programme as a wise approach and provided a win-win approach for both the employer and the illegal immigrant worker.
Engku Ahmad said it would be able to resolve problems in finding foreign maids when
illegal immigrants could be employed and reduce the high initial hiring costs.
Asked if this move would cause a flood of illegal immigrants, he said: “There already are many illegal immigrants. The problem is not caused by the illegal immigrants but by administrative weaknesses and loopholes.”
However, Engku Ahmad admitted that it has to be a short term solution as it is not healthy for the long run, especially if it went beyond three years.
“Those responsible should outline a concrete and integrated policy regarding foreign workers in the future, in line with the nation’s socio-economic direction, especially in terms of welfare, role and local labour contribution,” he said.
According to Engku Ahmad, in the long run the country needs to put local workers first because illegal immigrants pose security risks to the country in terms of social, health, housing and human trafficking.
“This is considered going against the regulations set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Our exports may even be boycotted by the West for abusing illegal immigrants due to competitive costs,” he said.
Immigration Department director-general Mustafar Ali has said application for the E-Card, which functions as temporary identification in place of valid travel documents, would be issued from Feb 15 to June 30 at all Immigration offices in the peninsula.
The programme is open to illegal immigrants in Peninsular Malaysia only and only for five economic sectors – construction, farming, services, manufacturing and agriculture.
The Immigration Department does not use middlemen or agents in E-Card application. Employers and foreign workers need to go to any Immigration office with the necessary documents and the card will be issued for free.
An estimated 400,000 to 600,000 illegal immigrants are expected to take the opportunity to register for the programme.