By Steven Sim
Malaysians should be worried about the stance of the federal government in dealing with undocumented migrant workers from China working in the Johor Forest City project.
After it was exposed in the media that the said development employed undocumented migrant workers, the home ministry announced it would legalise the workers involved.
FIRSTLY, it is clear that our border control is highly problematic when illegal migrant workers from China can enter the country and work in a mega project openly, breaking all sorts of laws, right under the watch of authorities at all levels.
Forest City is not a project hidden in the forest, as its name suggests. In fact, it is a mega project in the state capital of Johor, projected to build almost 120,000 housing units.
SECONDLY, the incident is conclusive proof that the insider syndicate within the immigration department is still actively in operation. It was revealed that the undocumented migrant workers were issued work passes after working illegally for a period of time in the said project.
THIRDLY, the combination of loose border controls and the convenience of legalising undocumented workers seems to encourage illegal entry into the country, including via human trafficking. This is because agents and migrant workers themselves know that they can be legalised easily in the future.
I have warned in Parliament that such government policies create a situation where “it is easier to say sorry than to ask for permission” for those entering the country illegally – break the law first, apologise later and then receive approval.
No second chance as a lesson to guilty foreign companies
Earlier this year, the government initiated the rehiring and legalisation process for undocumented migrant workers through the E-Kad campaign. Although the deadline to apply for the E-Kad is in June, three months have passed since the campaign began on Feb 15.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no effort by the employers of these illegal migrant workers from China to legalise their workers before the exposé by the media.
As such, I urge that no legalisation be allowed in this case, and the harshest actions of the law should be taken against the guilty parties as a warning to these foreign companies.
Not only did they exploit their workers, thus bringing shame to Malaysia, these employers are also breaking our country’s laws knowingly and openly without remorse.
I also urge the local government to issue a stop-work order on the Forest City project to enable the authorities, including the immigration department, to conduct investigations and audits over the migrant workers involved in the project.
The government must take the highest measure of precaution on a project of such grand scale which utilises tens of thousands of migrant workers to prevent untoward incidents involving such a big group of foreigners in our country.
Steven Sim is MP for Bukit Mertajam, deputy spokesperson, DAP Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources and director of Penang Institute.
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