PETALING JAYA: Nepal has sounded the alarm over the plight of its nationals working illegally in Malaysia, following Putrajaya’s crackdown on undocumented foreign workers.
The deadline for employers to apply for the immigration “Enforcement Card” or E-Kad for their illegal workers was last Friday.
Kathmandu-based The Himalayan Times (THT) reported that Nepal’s foreign affairs ministry had directed its embassy in Kuala Lumpur to keep communication lines with officials at detention centres open to help the affected Nepali workers sent home.
It quoted the ministry’s joint secretary Durga Bhandari as saying the embassy and labour attaché in Malaysia had been asked to manage air tickets for detained Nepalis unable to purchase them.
THT said about 500,000 Nepalis were working in Malaysia. The Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea) estimates 40,000 of them are working without valid permits.
It added that more than 100 Nepali illegals had already been detained, along with those from other countries, since the Malaysian authorities swung into action after midnight on Friday.
Nafea president Bimal Dhakal told the daily that prior to the clampdown, many workers had stayed on illegally after their permits expired.
He said employment agencies which enlisted foreigners without permits were also the target of enforcement by the Malaysian immigration department.
“Earlier, recruitment companies in Malaysia used to easily hire workers whose work permits had expired and there were no obstacles in illegal workers sending money to their home countries,” Dhakal was quoted as saying.
He said the trend for workers to stay on in Malaysia had led to a drop in demand for fresh workers from Nepal in recent years.
The daily also cited a foreign employment expert as saying that the Malaysian government’s move would affect remittance inflows to Nepal if the undocumented Nepali workers are sent home.
The Immigration Department launched the operation against illegal workers after launching the registration exercise on Feb 15 for employers to get their illegal foreign workers to apply for the E-Kad.
On June 30, immigration director-general Mustafar Ali expressed disappointment with the attitude of the employers for not acting on the matter.
The department had warned that it will arrest illegal immigrants and prosecute their employers under Sections 56(1) and 55B of the Immigration Act 1959/1963. This will include those employing immigrants with student passes.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had estimated that only 23% of illegal immigrants had applied for the E-Kad.