Sabah starts legalising illegal foreign workers

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is moving ahead with its programme to legitimise illegal foreign workers in the state despite strong objections from the opposition parties.

The Sabah Immigration Department announced that it had begun a five-month programme to “regularise” illegal workers and their families in the plantation and agriculture sectors.

Immigration director Musa Sulaiman said the department would carry out the programme until Sept 30.

“It will give an opportunity for employers of illegal immigrants to obtain proper work passes for their workers,” he said, adding that it would also allow for more effective enforcement in the future.

The programme is also aimed at resolving security concerns over the presence of illegal immigrants in both sectors, he added.

Musa said employers could legalise their Filipino and Indonesian labour workforce who are operating illegally within the two sectors.

“Only foreign workers without any valid pass or permits or those who have overstayed their permits before Jan 1 this year will be allowed to participate in the programme,” he added.

However, he said employers could also register those workers without proper documents, provided they had obtained the workers’ passports from the relevant embassies or consulates after the quota application was approved.

He said that the department would only accept quota applications from employers until June 30.

Musa also said a worker and his wife would have to pay compound fines of RM300 each but there would be no fine imposed on their children for illegally staying in the state.

“This compound shall be imposed first before the temporary working passes or passes their dependents can be issued.

“Every worker that is registered must have a valid passport from their respective countries and the validity should not be less than 18 months,” he said.

He then said only the worker’s wife and children are allowed to be registered under a special programme by the state government.

This programme, Musa said, is aimed at helping to meet the needs of employers facing severe worker shortages in the plantation and agriculture sectors.

Indonesian workers in the plantation sector have to pay an overall cost of RM1,705 for themselves while their spouse’s cost is RM1,070 and children RM770.

On the other hand, Filipino workers will have to pay RM1,747 while their spouse’s cost is RM1,112 and children at RM812.

Indonesian workers in the agriculture sector need to fork out RM1,525, their spouse RM1,070 and children RM770, while for Filipino workers it would cost RM1,567, spouse RM1,112 and children RM812.

Musa said the cost involves the compound fines as well as cost of various requirements for issuance of work passes for the workers and their families.

Opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan previously slammed the proposal to regularise illegal workers, accusing Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and his administration of getting their priorities wrong.

He claimed Shafie cared more about illegal immigrants and their families than locals in Sabah.

Shafie, however, defended the move by saying issuing special passes to illegal foreign workers was necessary in order to regulate them in their respective work, adding that it was not the same as granting citizenship.