PETALING JAYA: A human rights group has welcomed the government’s proposal to introduce a registration system for Malaysians who wish to work overseas to protect them against exploitation.
Adrian Pereira, executive director of the North-South Initiative, said all citizens working abroad should have an insurance system to ensure they were safe.
“How can it not be compulsory? It puts Malaysians at the risk of trafficking and exploitation. It has to be compulsory if it is for labour purposes,” he told FMT.
Otherwise, he said, Malaysians would start coming home in body bags like the thousands of migrants who came to Malaysia for work and died here.
Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran yesterday said a registration system would be introduced for those who wished to work overseas to protect them, but that the registration would be on a voluntary basis.
He also said there was a plan to revive the Malaysian Overseas Employment Management Centre (MOEMC).
Adrian said the revival of such an agency should be done in collaboration with all the stakeholders for it to work.
He said it was time for Malaysia to learn from other countries since the nation clearly dioes not have the experience.
Adrian said the best country to follow was the Philippines, which had decent rules to ensure their citizens going abroad followed a certain protocol before migrating for labour purposes.
“The system in the Philippines is mandatory. There are also pre-departure screenings to ensure migrant workers are medically fit to work abroad.”
He said Malaysia must also not forget its duty to create decent work opportunities at home, as there had been reports of Malaysians seeking informal work in Australia.
Alex Ong, Migrant Care’s country representative for Malaysia, said it was important for the government to keep track of citizens who were abroad.
He, however, said many did not want to be tracked or found to be working illegally abroad.
“Malaysians working abroad illegally breach their social visit visa. It is similar to that of migrant workers who come to Malaysia to work illegally.”
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J Solomon welcomed the government’s initiative to revive the MOEMC, but added it was vital to find out if the centre’s failure to effectively operate previously was due to a lack of officers or for other reasons.
He said it was reported that around one million Malaysians were working abroad, and it was disheartening that they were subjected to exploitation.
“Although it is alleged that 47 workers returned home recently after they were arrested for being part of a gaming syndicate, we are unaware about the true picture about the allegation.
“However, it is common that expatriate workers, especially the unskilled ones, are subjected to serious discrimination in many countries irrespective of their credibility in protecting human rights.”
“Needless to mention that such workers go in search of foreign jobs for significantly higher wages than what is paid in Malaysia.
“However, we need to respect their freedom to be employed anywhere, and it is the responsibility of the nation to ensure that they are well protected against any form of discrimination,” he said.
Solomon said a commission comprising MTUC, Malaysian Employers Federation and the ministry was the need of the hour to effectively monitor and remedy the grievances of Malaysians working overseas.
He said such a commission must be empowered to deliver proper advice to Malaysians to prevent fraudulent employment agencies from duping them.