PETALING JAYA: The government is not helping clear its reputation as a human trafficking hub by allowing illegal migrant workers to enter the country, have them work for a major development project then legalise them, says DAP’s Steven Sim.
The Bukit Mertajam MP said a combination of loose border control and the convenience to legalise undocumented workers seems to encourage illegal entry into the country including via human trafficking.
“I reiterate my stance that the government should not allow the employers to legalise their illegal migrant workers and the harshest actions of the law should be taken against these employers as a lesson to foreign companies operating on our shores as well as to demonstrate our seriousness against immigration offences.
“However, I call on the government to treat the undocumented migrants as trafficked persons who may be rightfully compensated under Section 66 (A) and 66 (B) of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Amendment) Act 2015 which incorporated the latest amendments,” Sim said, referring to a report on the Forest City development project in Johor.
It was reported on Monday that hundreds of Chinese nationals entered the country, having paid agents between 10,000 yuan (RM6,288) and 24,000 yuan (RM15,092), to work in Forest City, only to discover that they will be working illegally, or receive a lower salary than promised.
According to Malaysiakini, hundreds of illegal migrant workers from China, who had come to Malaysia under tourist visas had been forced to return home, while others opted to continue working illegally.
Either way, they were subjected to delayed payments and exploitation.
Following this, the immigration department said it would raid the project while Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said his ministry would consider legalising the immigrant workers under its rehiring programme, Malaysiakini reported.
“By just legalising these workers now, the government’s policy is tantamount to ‘it is easier to say sorry than to ask for permission”; break the law first, apologise later and then receive approval’.
“I reiterate my stance that the government should not allow the employers to legalise their illegal migrant workers and the harshest actions of the law should be taken against these employers as a lesson to foreign companies operating on our shores as well as to demonstrate our seriousness against immigration offences,” Sim said.
Sim, who is deputy spokesperson of the DAP Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources, said the government must take the stance of treating these illegal migrant workers as victims of human trafficking.
“I call on the government to treat the undocumented migrants as trafficked persons who may be rightfully compensated under Section 66 (A) and 66 (B) of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Amendment) Act 2015 which incorporated the latest amendments.”
Section 66 (A) (1) reads: “The Court before which a person is convicted of an offence under this Act may make an order for the payment of a sum fixed by the Court by way of compensation by the convicted person to the trafficked person.”
Section 66 (B) (1) reads: “In the case of no conviction of an offence under this Act, where payment of wages is in arrears to an alleged trafficked person, the Court shall make an order for the payment of such wages in arrears of a sum fixed by the Court to the alleged trafficked person upon application of the Public Prosecutor after conducting an inquiry by the Court.”
“This would ensure that these undocumented migrant workers, if classified as trafficked persons, can be compensated financially for their predicaments.
“This exposé has further tarnished Malaysia’s name, by reaffirming our notoriety as a hub for human trafficking in the region,” Sim said, calling on the government to take immediate action against the guilty parties as well as to provide protection to the victims to redeem the country’s image.
Forest City is a futuristic smart city project being built in Johor on four man-made islands spanning 1,385.6 hectares. Costing RM100 billion, it is expected to be completed within 20 years and will have a range of facilities, including housing units, offices and shopping malls.
CGPV is 66%-owned by Country Garden Holdings through Malaysian-registered subsidiaries Country Garden Waterfront Sdn Bhd, Country Garden Danga Bay Sdn Bhd and Country Garden Real Estate Sdn Bhd.