PETALING JAYA: Home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he and human resources minister Steven Sim will meet on Jan 16 to discuss the status of the freeze on the hiring of foreign workers.
In a statement, he said they are expected to give their proposals on the matter to the Cabinet.
On Dec 7, then human resources minister V Sivakumar said the Cabinet had not made any new deliberations on the freeze, which is still in effect.
Saifuddin was responding to the recent announcement of a meeting between the two ministries following the case involving 171 Bangladeshis who were arrested in Pengerang, Johor, on Dec 20.
The Bangladeshis were nabbed after taking part in a march to lodge a police report against their agents for failing to secure jobs for them as promised.
“The home and human resources ministries view this matter seriously and will not compromise with any party involved in cases of foreign worker exploitation that lead to forced labour and human trafficking practices,” he said.
Saifuddin and Sim have also agreed that the employers must face legal action under the Immigration Act 1959/63, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act (Atipsom) 2007, the Employment Act 1955, and the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities Act 1990.
Apart from cancelling the employers’ remaining quotas for foreign workers and their approval letters, Saifuddin said, the employers will be blacklisted from new foreign worker employment applications.
They will also be prevented from carrying out any dealings with the immigration department, including renewing work permits for current foreign workers.
Saifuddin said the two ministries will monitor and inspect employers who have brought in foreign workers through the Foreign Workers Employment Relaxation Plan.
The plan, introduced in January last year, allowed employers in five sectors to hire foreign workers from 15 source countries without having to meet quota requirements and employment eligibility prerequisites.
When announcing the plan, Sivakumar was reported to have said a total of 500,000 foreign workers would be brought into the country in stages with the aim of addressing the labour shortage in the manufacturing, construction, plantations, agriculture, and services (restaurants only) sectors, as well as sub-sectors.
However, just two months later, he announced that all applications and processing for migrant workers were suspended until further notice.
In September, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said the government was set to lift the freeze on the intake of foreign workers for the textile, goldsmith and barber shop sectors, although partially.
Anwar said Putrajaya will not lift the ban, which has been in place since 2009, totally for now.