Crackdown not in sync with ‘new Malaysia’, immigration told

More than 26,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested this year as immigration authorities vow to ‘liberate’ Malaysia by Aug 31. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Activists have questioned immigration director-general Mustafar Ali after he defended the nationwide crackdown on undocumented workers despite criticism from rights groups.

Vocal migrant rights organisation Tenaganita said the main problem with the crackdown was the way the foreigners were arrested, depriving them of basic human rights.

“Some in the Immigration Department are dumping these workers out, yelling at them in the process, essentially treating them less than human beings. That is not how this should go down,” said Tenaganita spokesperson Arya Elise Chen.

She said the crackdown could reflect badly on Pakatan Harapan (PH), which had promised to improve the country’s human rights record.

“If this is really the new Malaysia, we need to start looking at the way these immigration crackdowns take place,” she added.

More than 26,000 illegal immigrants and 700 employers were arrested in the first seven months of this year.

Mustafar earlier defended the nationwide crackdown on illegal workers, saying it was to protect Malaysia’s “sovereignty and security”.

He said his department would “liberate Malaysia from illegal immigrants” by Aug 30, the deadline for undocumented foreigners to surrender to authorities under an amnesty programme.

But Chen said the immigration authorities were only scratching the surface of the issue.

She said the role of agents who employed undocumented workers was often ignored.

“We propose to the government to get rid of middlemen who employ these workers and treat them this way. They don’t follow the rule of law and hold their work permits and passports, for example.”

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the Immigration Department, while firm in cracking down on illegal workers, had failed to stop undocumented workers from coming in.

“Clearly, they’re not doing this successfully. They’re being hasty. We are not thinking the problem through.

“Many of these workers work in the small and medium industries. If you push this through, we are going to risk having productivity being affected. Already a number of them have run for cover now that they have no manpower to meet their target,” he told FMT.

Charles, who chairs the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said the Immigration Department must go after brokers who profit through the illegal workers trade.

“They’re the real culprits here,” he added.

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