Good policies needed before punishing errant employers

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PETALING JAYA: A civic group has urged the government to put in place a comprehensive system to handle the immigration of foreign workers, saying it is unfair to punish errant employers before this is done.

Speaking to FMT, Tenaganita Co-Director Aegile Fernandez said some employers were still hiring illegal immigrants because they could not afford the cost of participating in the government’s Rehiring Programme, which was carried out from Feb 15 to May 19 this year.

“If the employers’ applications under the programme were not successful, the fees they would have paid would be forfeited,” Fernandez pointed out. “That’s why they were up in arms over the whole thing.

“We do need proper policies first.”

Fernandez was responding to a news report quoting Immigration Director-General Mustafar Ali as saying that employers hiring illegal workers would be “named and shamed” at the end of each month.

She said the financial instability of some employers was one of the reasons that the number of undocumented workers remained high.

“We are getting many cases where migrant workers are complaining that they haven’t been receiving their salaries, but their bosses can’t afford to send them back to their countries,” she said.

“These employers should have sought permission from the Immigration Department for these workers to be hired elsewhere, but they don’t do that. Therefore, these workers become undocumented.

“Tenaganita is getting many such complaints on a daily basis. This means that something is seriously wrong with the system.”

She also spoke of corruption among immigration officials, saying it was contributing to the increase in the number of undocumented workers.

“I’m happy that Mustafar has taken action against his workers for being corrupt,” she said. “This is part of the problem. Corrupt agencies and officials have been bringing in migrant workers illegally into the country.”

She also called for “severe punishment” of employers guilty of abusing their workers.

“There are a lot of abuses and violations of rights affecting migrant workers in the country,” she said. “Why are the perpetrators not being hauled up and punished?”