Dhaka, Bangladesh
Swoop on illegal immigrants hurting Malaysian economy

Swoop on illegal immigrants hurting Malaysian economy

The ongoing nationwide swoop on illegal immigrants is not only affecting employers but also hurting the economy as well, said the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), report agencies. MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan told The Malaysian Insight that the construction, plantation and agriculture sectors would be negatively impacted by the arrests of illegal foreign workers carried out by the Immigration Department in the Op Mega E-card, which began on July 1. "There are around 900,000 illegal foreign workers in the construction sector and many of them now are in hiding. Even those with proper paperwork have also gone into hiding," he said. Shamsuddin said this will indirectly slow down the industry, as construction projects are done on a tight deadline and delays will spell losses for employers. "It's the same in the agriculture sector. If strict enforcement is carried out, a shortage in vegetable supplies would occur, for example, in Cameron Highlands. "As a result, prices of vegetables will rise and this will also impact (on) the economy." Although MEF is against employers who hired illegal workers, there are concerns that need to be raised, he said. The government needs to make sure its procedures and timeframe to hire illegal workers are easy once all enforcement had been done. The E-card covers factories, construction, plantation, agriculture and services. From July 1 to July 10, the Immigration Department carried out 502 operations nationwide and arresting 3,071 foreigners. Bangladeshis recorded the highest number of arrests with 1,160, followed by Indonesians (695), Myanmar (231), Vietnamese (116), Thailand (111), Filipinos (95) and the rest from other countries. Among those arrested were 2,429 men, 570 women and 15 children. Shamsuddin said there are several factors why employers refuse to register their foreign workers under the E-card programme. He said the scheme was initially provided free but the Immigration Department changed this in the middle of the registration period. Employers now are charged RM600 per worker, 50% of the registration fee. "It is a form of abuse in the system. Employers are told to pay half of the fee upon registration of the E-card. "Payment should be fully settled when the rehiring and settlement programme application is completed. When they were told to pay half, that means it is RM600. "With such charges, employers refuse to register the workers and even if they did, there is still a chance of no E-card being issued or the E-card could not be extended into the rehiring programme. If so, the payment would be forfeited. "So, this is a big problem for the employers." He said employers hiring illegal workers will have their data recorded as the department might use them for different purposes in the future. "They are also worried that they would be blacklisted." Director-General of Immigration Mustafar Ali said only 23% of the 600,000 illegal foreigners were registered during the E-card timeframe. Stringent and lengthy paperwork also contributed to the reluctance of employers to register their workers, especially those running small businesses. "Those who only operate a small business or do not have a full trading licence are not qualified to register. So how is that?" said an employer, who requested anonymity. "Some of them are also afraid they would be audited by the Inland Revenue Board if their data is kept by the Immigration Department." Those registering their workers also complained about the RM600 fee, especially when there are no guarantees the workers won't look for work elsewhere. Shamsuddin proposed streamlining the procedures and requirements. At present, foreign workers will only be hired by the employer who registered them. "MEF proposed that employers be exempted from the registration process, but only the foreign workers. After registration, the employers can apply to hire them." He said many small businesses who engaged illegal foreigners do not have a full business license. "For example, the operator of a small manufacturing company operating from a shophouse does not have a full licence. "Besides, there is not much difference between the E-card scheme and the other schemes implemented by the department before. The government knows that previously, employers are not required to turn up at the Immigration office to register their workers. It is only a repeat of the same procedure." The E-card is to provide illegal foreigners a temporary work pass to fill in vacancies in the allowed sectors. Registered employers and the illegal workers have to obtain a passport from the relevant embassies before they could be legalised under the programme. E-card is a special programme and an early screening procedure for both employers and illegal foreigners for a direct conditional approval before getting their full paperwork. Both parties still need to apply for a temporary work pass directly from the department. - July 17, 2017. According to The Edge Financial Daily in Kuala Lumpur, the cost of doing business is rising for many employers in the country as the ongoing crackdown on illegal foreign workers has resulted in a labour shortage. The sweep by the immigration department is aimed at foreign workers who do not possess an enforcement card (E-Card), which acts as a temporary validation for them before they obtain legal papers from their respective countries. After the deadline to get the E-Card closed on June 30, large numbers of illegal workers without the card are not turning up to work on fears of being caught in a raid. The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said employers resorted to engaging illegal foreign workers instead of legal ones as they would not have to pay a recruitment fee and provide for insurance, housing and other benefits to the worker. "But now the supply of illegal foreign workers have become lesser as not many of them are willing to come out and work, and this poses a challenge to employers to continue their operations," MEF executive director, Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, told The Edge Financial Daily. To make matters worse, said Shamsuddin, even the supply of legal workers has been affected by the crackdown, as some of them are also staying away from their work place due to fear over the raids. "Some of the legal foreign workers have also decided to go into hiding, because when the immigration does their mega operations they round up all the foreign workers [both illegal and legal] and bring them to the centres for processing," he said.

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