Tenaganita says 500,000 migrant workers cheated in ‘govt-sponsored scam’

The government launched a ‘Rehiring Programme’ three years ago to legalise undocumented migrant workers. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A migrant rights body has asked the government where the millions of ringgit collected in 2016 from foreign workers who were not issued work permits has gone.

Tenaganita said a “Rehiring Programme” was conducted by Putrajaya three years ago to allow undocumented migrant workers to be issued valid work permits, where three official vendors had registered about 744,000 migrant workers.

The group said at the end of the campaign in June 2018, only about 110,000 of those who had registered received work permits.

“Cases handled by Tenaganita indicates that each applying migrant had paid an average of RM6,000 to the vendors,” said the group’s director Joseph Paul Malaimauv

“Those who did not obtain the work permit lost all the money that they had paid and in most cases they also lost their passports which they had handed over to the vendors,” he told a press conference today.

He said the government had refused to take responsibility for the failure of the programme while the vendors blamed the government for failing to process the applications on time.

As a result, he said, about half a million migrant workers had “become victims of what can only be described as a government-sponsored scam to make money from the migrant workers”.

Not only did they lose their money and passports and remained undocumented, they also continued to be detained, charged in court and deported,” he claimed.

“The millions of ringgit that has been collected from those who had registered for the government programme without being rehired should be used for the benefit of migrant workers, especially their medical needs.

“It would be a sin for the money to be treated as revenue for the government or for the crony vendors in the rehiring programme,” he added.

In August this year, the government announced another “Back For Good” amnesty programme, whereby undocumented workers could voluntarily surrender themselves and return home after paying a penalty of RM700.

Meanwhile, Tenaganita executive director Glorene Dass painted a grim picture of the number of deaths among migrant workers.

She said in just one province in Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara Timur, 91 bodies of workers had arrived from Malaysia between January and October this year.

“This means that at least nine migrant workers from just one province die in Malaysia each month.

“Similarly, in 2018 there were 95 recorded deaths of migrant workers from the same province,” she added.

As for Nepalese workers, 322 deaths were reported in 2018, which is consistent with NGO reports that almost every day one Nepalese migrant worker returns home from Malaysia in a coffin.

She said in a recent case in Sitiawan, Perak, a palm oil migrant worker who was bitten by a snake was not taken to hospital. He later died.

“He was not taken to hospital because he was an illegal worker,” she claimed, adding that such workers were forced to work all hours.

Das called on Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran to go after the companies which flouted the law instead of going after illegal workers.