PETALING JAYA: Banning migrant workers from living in housing estates will create divisions in society and a sense of “us versus them”, according to a consumer advocate.
Tarmizi Anuwar, the Malaysian representative of Washington-based Consumer Choice Centre, said a ban announced last week by the Negeri Sembilan state government was against the principle of inclusivity and may result in social tensions.
The policy could result in increased expenditure for migrant workers, as living in commercial zones would be more expensive.
Negeri Sembilan executive councillor J Arul Kumar said on Jan 29 that employers must relocate their workers to commercial zones or dormitories (centralised living quarters) by the end of 2024.
Arul said the state government will encourage the construction or conversion of buildings for dormitories, after complaints of migrant workers in housing areas causing disturbances and creating cleanliness problems.
He said the proposed centralised quarters must be fenced, constantly monitored and equipped with basic facilities and comply with all conditions set by the local authorities and labour department.
North South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira said there should be no segregation in society.
“There’s no law to segregate communities, and who gives them the right to decide on this? Today, they say migrant workers. Tomorrow, who knows who else will be exclude and marginalised from society,” he told FMT.
Independent migrant worker rights specialist Andy Hall said migrant workers should not be placed in isolated or remote areas without easy access to shopping for reasonably priced food, and the ability to engage in social and religious activities.
Hall said the quarters must have safe cooking facilities, and provide unrestricted freedom of movement.