Suspend raids on foreign workers, say migrant groups

More than 1,200 foreign workers were checked and 300 detained in raids conducted in Kuala Lumpur last weekend. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The government has been urged to suspend Immigration Department raids on migrant workers pending a meeting with two Cabinet ministers for a full review of enforcement action and to work out a comprehensive solution to migrant worker problems.

More than 100 groups representing migrant worker communities and civil society organisations issued a joint statement today calling for an immediate moratorium on the “Ops Mega 3.0” enforcement action. They said this was to ensure that no workers were punished for offences which are not of their fault.

The groups requested an urgent meeting with the Home Affairs Minister and the Human Resources Minister “to discuss and propose comprehensive, rights-based solutions”.

Over the weekend, Immigration Department enforcement operations on undocumented migrant workers caused an uproar when raids were conducted at popular shopping complexes in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, involving 1,200 foreign workers.

More than 300 were detained, and one employer complained that her Filipina maid had been taken in, despite having a copy of her passport and a picture of her visa.

Today’s statement said the raids should be suspended until an assessment of all the issues was conducted and potential comprehensive solutions undertaken.

The government was also urged to decriminalise the “undocumented” status of workers, reveal the standard procedures used for conducting raids and detaining undocumented migrant workers, and for migrant workers to be given more time to secure working visas or to determine their working status.

The statement explained that migrant workers became “undocumented” because of labour exploitation, with women and child migrant workers facing additional layers of exploitation, and pointed out that refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people were also at risk of being detained under the new enforcement operations.

The groups urged the government to stop blacklisting migrant workers who use the 3+1 amnesty programme, ensure that all migrants had legal aid, and the right to redress.

“We must never punish migrants who became victims of trafficking to Malaysia, as their circumstances are beyond their control. We should be going after the syndicates and those responsible,” the statement said.

Malaysia’s downgrade to the Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report reinforced fears of the prevalence of trafficking networks within Malaysia, it said.

Many were victims of fraud by employment agents. “They often found that not only have their contracts, employment sites, and terms and conditions been changed, but that they may have also violated Malaysian immigration laws. For most workers there is little access to justice or right to redress mechanisms in proving the fraud and deception,” it said.

“There is no adequate redress mechanism that can investigate and track these agents. We are afraid that workers in the midst of registration may be again victimised by this move,” the statement said.

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