RM700 too high to encourage workers to take up latest amnesty programme, says union

The government has announced a five-month amnesty programme, under which illegal workers can pay RM700 to leave Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: An international workers’ union has welcomed the government’s latest amnesty programme to enable undocumented migrants to leave the country, but said the RM700 compound fee was still too steep.

The Building and Wood Workers’ International warned that the amount could work as a “real disincentive” for migrants to take up the offer.

“A minimum compound of RM150 will encourage them to take up the offer without having to borrow as they also have to buy a return flight ticket,” said the union’s Malaysian spokesman Nor Azlan Yaacob.

Yesterday, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a five-month amnesty from next month to the year-end, under what is called the “Back For Good” programme.

Under the programme, eligible undocumented foreigners will have to bring their passports and emergency travel certificates as well as a ticket to return to their country of origin within seven days.

Muhyiddin said they would only have to pay a total of RM700.

Nor Azlan, who is also the secretary-general of the Timber Employees Union of Peninsular Malaysia, said many undocumented workers had entered Malaysia legally and were forced to borrow money to pay recruitment agents.

He said most of them were also impoverished and victims of unscrupulous employers who exploited them because of their illegal status.

“They would have had to pay for their own food and lodging here with wages that are far below the minimum wage of RM1,100 and have very poor savings,” he said.

“Some earn just enough to make ends meet and have been living in constant fear of immigration raids.”

He said RM700 was a lot of money for workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Indonesia.

Nor Azlan said the government should take action against employers engaging undocumented migrants, instead of just focussing on the workers.

He also said Putrajaya should consider renewing work visas of undocumented migrant workers so that they can contribute to the economy.

“Thousands of migrant workers who put their trust in the government’s rehiring programme introduced by the previous government and conducted through three select companies since 2016 are today undocumented as a consequence of this programme,” he added.