The Disservice Towards Immigrant Workers in Malaysia
Sometime last year July, there were outbursts and anger from Malaysians over an Al-Jazeera video exposing the Malaysian government’s humanitarian efforts or lack thereof towards immigrants and refugees.
Our healthcare system was highly praised, with a Director General (DG) who was considered among the best in the world, with the ability to channel new info, enforce it and move fast all while during a political take over is something we all will read about in history books. However, immigrants were held in flats with barb wires preventing them from fleeing and those without visas were deported back, some immediately, some held in deportation centres with no communication with family and friends for months.
What happened to the immigrants were terrible. And Malaysians should be mad. Mad. The question is who should we be mad at?
There are 2 types of legal immigrants. One is through the “agencies”. You can find them in the back alleys. They will “register legally” for RM4k — 5k through a shell company. Every other shop or offices tend to have this because it is fast and easy to get workers. BUT these immigrant labour workers do not get health benefits and most often bullied. And almost 1 out of 5 legal immigrants will lose their visa renewal monies saved up, to these agencies making them“illegal” immigrants.
The other legal way is for employers to head to the immigration department, fulfil a crazy load amount of criteria, and plenty of time taken for approvals sometimes months. I went building to building from the embassy in KL to Putrajaya just to get information and these were not clear online. The perks for an immigrant employee is that the employers will be responsible for their social well-being. Technically, this is the only legal way. Unfortunately, it is challenging, time-consuming, costly and can’t meet demands fast enough.
Another problem is when illegal immigrants are trafficked (re phantom voters). There are provided national Identification Cards and made citizens overnight but without proper assimilation provided.
When Covid 19 lockdown happened, too many immigrants ended up starving for days. Most of them were either illegal or legal under “shell companies” where their companies did not take care of them.
About a year later from this expose, Malaysia plunges from 16th to 51st in Bloomberg’s Covid19 resistance ranking. Yesterday, Malaysia was downgraded to the worst tier in human trafficking and one of the causal factors was its handling of migrants
Should Malaysia foster illegal immigrants? Anything illegal is illegal.
So then who should we be mad at? If you are gonna be mad, be mad at the policies of not enforcing proper immigration practice. Be mad at border control and corruption that happens there. Be mad at the lack of governance and allowance of “shell companies” to resolve the quick supply-demand issue without considering the elements of humanity.
Sending illegal immigrants back is one thing. But if we do not clean the policies and allow bribery to happen, we will not resolve the problem in the long run. Talk about this in the Parliament. When it re-opens. If it re-opens.