‘Zero illegal immigrants’ plan in the works, says Muhyiddin

Illegal immigrants wait to apply for the government’s Back For Good programme. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: A holistic plan on enforcement against illegal immigrants will be launched next year to combat the influx of illegal immigrants in the country in a comprehensive manner.

The plan is aimed at ensuring zero illegal immigrants in the set period through the strengthening of governance and existing enforcement work systems.

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the plan will entail strategic cooperation between various ministries and related agencies based on firmer law enforcement and more effective action.

He said the flood of illegal immigrants should be tackled through firmer enforcement and legal action so that it would not remain a national issue with a negative impact on the country’s social and legal aspects.

“This year, we have achieved a lot of success in terms of combating the problem of illegal immigrants. This plan outlines the programme or measures for the next five years, and I will start it in 2020.

“Through this plan, we want to make sure that every year the number of illegal immigrants drops until we reach a stage where there are no more foreign workers entering or working illegally in the country,” he told Bernama.

The plan, which was drawn up by the ministry in June this year, also involves state governments, local authorities, village community management councils, and village development and security committees.

Its objectives include creating an ecosystem that discourages illegal immigrants by boosting the capability of existing enforcement and regulatory agencies and enhancing strategic cooperation and local community awareness.

The plan outlines five strategies for eradicating the illegal immigrant problem: enforcement operation, legal and policy, border control and entry point, management of foreigners, and media and publicity.

Once the plan is launched, Muhyiddin said, the home ministry will no longer have to conduct amnesty programmes.

He said amnesty programmes give foreigners the wrong message that anyone can enter and reside in Malaysia without documents as they will eventually be “pardoned”.

“Although illegal, they dare to enter because they think Malaysia is not firm in terms of immigration regulations and the like. Clearly, this is the wrong signal,” he said.

Muhyiddin said implementation of the Back For Good (B4G) programme for illegal immigrants on Aug 1 this year was an early initiative by the government to rid Malaysia of illegal immigrants.

The programme, which ends at midnight on Dec 31, gives an opportunity to foreigners who have committed offences under the Immigration Act 1959/63 (Act 155) to voluntarily return to their country by paying a RM700 compound.

The programme, which aims to deport up to 300,000 foreigners, is conducted in peninsular Malaysia only by the immigration department to ensure transparency, without the involvement of third parties like vendors or agents.

“The most important thing for us is how to tackle those illegal immigrants who settle here before the holistic plan takes effect next year.

“Maybe their original aim of coming was to work, but they persisted in overstaying to the extent of committing other things like crime. This is what we are paying attention to,” Muhyiddin added.

As of Dec 15, the immigration department had recorded more than 130,000 illegal immigrants applying to join the B4G programme, with Indonesians accounting for the highest number at 53,328.

On the status of foreign workers in industrial sectors still in need of their services, Muhyiddin said the existing policy would continue and the home ministry would ensure that they were used to meet the needs of the industries concerned.

He said the ministry would ensure that activities inconsistent with laws on foreign workers like oppression and human trafficking do not occur, to ensure that Malaysia’s position in the US State Department Annual Report – currently at Tier 2 – is either maintained or improved.

“Although the number of such cases is not big, I want it to be given attention and for us to be careful about managing this matter, especially relating to oppression and human trafficking when managing and tackling immigrants in the country,” he said.