Home Ministry warns that employers who do not legalise their foreign workers may even face human trafficking charges.
The ‘legalisation’ (pemutihan) phase of the government’s 6P amnesty programme will end by tonight (Tuesday).
Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam told FMT that there is no word from the government whether the deadline would be extended again.
“We will continue the process at this time, we want to see how many more will come forward,” he said, adding that the number of illegal foreign workers that have been legalised so far stood at about 300,000.
Asked what would happen after today, Mahmood said the Home Ministry would focus on taking action against the employers who had failed to register their workers.
“At this point, we will be more interested in the employers as they hold the responsibilty to register their workers. If we catch them, we might not act under the Immigration Act but charges under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2007 will be levelled against them,” he said.
The Act provides for stiff penalties, including a 20 year jail-term and fines up to RM500,000. Mahmood said the Act can be enforced in this case if elements of cheating or exploitation of workers are found.
“This would be a very large scale, grand, enforcement effort involving nearly three million enforcement officers, led by the immigration department, and followed by the police and all other units from other government departments,” he said.
Other than human trafficking laws, Mahmood said employers could also be charged for harbouring illegal workers under the Immigration Act as well as for offences under the labour laws.
No action against illegal workers
He said the government has given ample time for employers and foreign workers to come forward and the deadline had already been extended once.
As for the illegal foreign workers, Mahmood said no legal action will be taken as this was an amnesty exercise.
“Its up to the people if they want to work here or not. If they don’t want to register, there would be no point forcing them. Don’t blame the government. We would just ask them to buy their own tickets and go home. This is what we call amnesty,” said Mahmood.
Mahmood said for the past several months, not a single illegal worker has been put in the lock-up and the government has saved an estimated RM100 million.
The amount saved was from the cost of not spending RM14,000 per person on average for a two-week detention.
So far, some 90,000 foreigners have already been sent back to their home countries, he said.
Asked about problems of many cases of illegal workers who face problems of changing employers mid-way, Mahmood said it was not a problem at all.
“The responsibility is with the old employers. We can go after them. You cannot go from one employer to another without the first employer’s consent. Under our records, you would be working illegally already,” said Mahmood.
Asked about frequent changes in policy and lack of information, Mahmood said the government has been talking about the 6P programme almost everyday in the papers to inform the public.
“We engage and advise employers, but in Malaysia, sometimes people have the bad habit to do things last minute. Why?” he said.
Mahmood said if employers still come today, they may be given new dates till April for next appointments. “Its okay, we consider, just come come forward,” he said.
Earlier today, FMT reported that several quarters had sought an extension for the 6P amnesty legalisation exercise.
In late December, FMT reported that the Putrajaya immigration centre was in chaotic state as employers, 6P agents, and foreign workers rushed en-masse to go through the legalisation process.
Under the 6P programme, announced last June, illegal foreign workers will either be legalised or deported without punishment. The six Ps represent the Malay words for registration, legalisation, amnesty, monitoring, enforcement and deportation.
By Aug 31, 2011, according to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, some one million legal foreign workers and 1.3million illegals have been registered using the biometric system under the first phase of 6P. The second phase, legalisation, had started since October.
The programme has been controversial from the start. There have been numerous complaints that it is open to exploitation by unscrupulous parties.
Critics said it has spawned bogus agents, opened the opportunity for management companies to overcharge their clients and encouraged legal foreign workers to abscond from their employers.
A digital clock on the Immigration Department’s official website is now ticking down the seconds that illegal workers and their employers have until the stroke of midnight, although FMT had received confused calls that the clock had even erroneously showed different deadlines.
“I thought the immigration deparment has given us like 100 more days when it said we have 4,026 hours more,” said one 6P agent.