Sunday, February 28, 2010

“War on undocumented migrants” not the answer

Aliran views with misgivings the Home Minister’s proposal to devise a mechanism to monitor “each and every foreigner” from the moment of entry into the country to the date of their exit.

Whilst this may be a step towards clearing the current immigration mess with the entry of overwhelming numbers of undocumented migrants, the Minister is reminded that security enforcement alone is not an acceptable solution to the lack of a proper immigration control system that recognises present day migration realities.

If the Home Minister and Cabinet Committee for Foreign Workers and Illegal Immigrants (CCFWII) are sincere in this effort to revamp or update our current Immigration system, Aliran proposes that the CCFWII consider the following factors:

1.Legal recognition of asylum seekers and refugees, who should be made a separate category from other migrants entering the country.
2.Allowing the United Nations refugee agency staff access to migrants seeking asylum to initiate proper assessment procedures to identify and register genuine refugees.
3.Legally recognise UNHCR documentation and grant refugees access to health care, education and employment facilities in the country as migrant workers.
4.Enforce equal labour rights for migrant workers and local workers, including the right to unionise and equal access to health care and labour dispute settlement within the Malaysian legal system.
5.Institute a legal mandatory standard and qualification criteria for migrant labour recruitment agencies and outsourcers that coincide with Malaysian labour legislation. This standard should incorporate international and ILO labour standards and be acceptable to migrant labour source countries.
6.Institute a monitoring and inspection system for migrant worker recruitment agencies and outsourcing companies, in cooperation with governments of migrant labour source countries.
7.Recognise ‘non-documentation’ as an administrative offence that attracts civil instead of criminal penalties, including deportation after thorough investigation of each case.
8.Abolish immigration courts at immigration detention centres, and have migrants charged with illegal entry into the country tried in magistrates courts.
9.Make legal representation of migrants facing trial for immigration offences compulsory to ensure equality before the law in accordance with s. 8(1) of the Federal Constitution.
10.Institute an immigration appeals system in which migrant cases may be reviewed to maintain consistency and stability in the existing migrant workforce in the country. Deportation should be treated as a last resort.
The Home Minister and the CCFWII should realise after so many years of futile crackdowns on ‘undocumented’ migrants that these scare tactics are merely a waste of time and public funds.

Moreover, ill-treatment and human rights violation of migrants only attracts international condemnation of Malaysia, even within Asean.

The government should stop maintaining its archaic view of migrants as a national security threat and take the trouble to deal with the fundamental problems of the existing immigration system, instead of waging a pointless ‘war’ on migrants to divert public attention from its own shortcomings.

Angeline Loh
18 February 2010