Rehire undocumented migrants, don’t bring in new ones, says MP

PETALING JAYA: A DAP lawmaker has suggested that the government legalise and allow the hiring of undocumented migrants instead of implementing an amnesty programme which would see them return to their country of origin.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said this would make more sense than bringing in foreign workers to meet labour demands, which would only benefit middlemen in the recruitment process.

The “Back For Good” programme will allow undocumented migrants to leave the country without risking arrest, although they will need to pay a RM700 compound and possess valid travel documents and a return ticket to their country.

Santiago asked where migrants would find the money to pay the compound as well as travel expenses.

He also questioned the logic of sending workers back to their country only to bring in other foreign workers.

“We need the workers, so we should come up with a way to let those who are already here work,” he told FMT.

He proposed a three-month moratorium on the intake of foreign workers while undocumented migrant workers in the country are registered and given time to find jobs.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das said a comprehensive policy for labour migration should be established as part of a long-term solution.

She said without such a policy and monitoring mechanisms, the corruption embedded in the recruitment, placement and employment processes of migrant workers could see the arrival of even more undocumented migrants.

She also spoke of undocumented migrants who are unaware of their legal status, such as victims of traffickers and unscrupulous agents, and isolated domestic workers.

“The previous rehiring programme which was implemented in 2016 was not transparent as it involved brokers and sub-agents in the regularisation process, leaving thousands of migrants still undocumented.

“How will they seek assistance for the amnesty programme? We must address the root causes of the failed rehiring programme and the impact on the workers,” she said.

The rehiring programme which was stopped last year was aimed at providing illegal foreign workers with work permits to fulfil labour requirements for certain sectors.

Ahmed Adebanjo, a spokesman for NGO Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation Malaysia, welcomed the initiative but voiced concern over the RM700 compound.

“RM700 is a lot of money, especially for undocumented migrants,” he said. “The government should keep in mind that most of them live very difficult lives.

“They can’t work legally without proper documentation – where are they going to get RM700 from? Many of them don’t even know where their next meal will come from.”

He said a more reasonable amount would be US$50 to US$75 (RM205 to RM308).

“If the amount is not much, then in our case, Nigerians who are more well-to-do can help out and help pay the compounds for two or three people,” he added.