KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar Council has urged the government to immediately cease the crackdown on migrant workers, saying many of them are undocumented through no fault of their own.
Its president George Varughese said many migrant workers were undocumented because the authorities did not provide them with the avenue to independently legalise their status.
“The process of renewing their work permits, legalising their work status and getting rehired can only be done by their employers via selected companies appointed by the government.
“Furthermore, the criteria set by the authorities are restrictive, excluding a large number of migrant workers. The lack of labour inspection by the authorities has left migrant workers unable to seek redress regarding labour rights violations and human rights abuses,” he added.
In a statement, Varughese said the council was troubled by the mass arrests of migrants which began on July 1 as part of the government’s crackdown on undocumented workers.
He said within the first three days of the nationwide operation called Ops Mega 3.0, the immigration authorities had reportedly detained over 1,200 undocumented migrants.
He said civil society organisations and employers had alleged that documented migrant workers and refugees were also detained.
“This crackdown instils fear among migrant workers and deters them, even those with proper documents, from coming out to work.
“This has wide ramifications for the productivity of the major economic sectors. Migrant workers are needed for the economic development of the country. This crackdown in its present form benefits no one.”
Varughese said the Bar was also concerned that the sudden influx of individuals detained in the already overcrowded detention centres would jeopardise the health of both detainees and enforcement officials.
“The Malaysian Bar urges the government to immediately cease the current crackdown on undocumented migrants and embark on a comprehensive legalisation programme.
“The Malaysian government must fulfil its obligation under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers adopted by member states on Nov 14, 2017, whereby the government was committed to providing an amnesty programme for undocumented migrants,” he said.