PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has censured the government for its apparent reluctance to shoulder the blame for the widespread presence of undocumented foreign workers in the country.
Speaking to FMT, Santiago said it was the weakness of enforcement efforts that had made the influx of such workers possible.
According to Human Resources Minister Richard Riot, it is estimated that there are seven undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia for every 10 documented ones. He made the disclosure in Parliament on Tuesday in response to a question from the MP for Temerloh, Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi of PAS.
Riot said employers were working hand in hand with employment agencies specialising in foreign workers.
Santiago said Riot’s statement was a virtual indictment of the Home Ministry.
“It goes to show that the Home Ministry has zero control over the agencies given permits to bring in foreign workers and that enforcement, whether at checkpoints or on the ground, is weak.”
He pointed out that undocumented migrant workers were not protected from exploitation by their employers. He said he had spoken to many of them and heard them complain that their employers overworked them and would cheat them of their wages.
He warned that such human rights abuses could eventually hurt the country.
“We have to be careful,” he said. “Developed markets overseas are known to boycott products from countries that do not protect human rights.”
Santiago urged the government to impose an immediate freeze on the import of foreign labour and to give amnesty to undocumented workers currently inside the country. He said they should be registered as legal migrant workers.
In his statement on Tuesday, Riot also said that many of the undocumented workers worked in supermarkets and restaurants.
Currently, the recruitment of foreign workers is allowed only for jobs in five sectors – construction, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and services.