Sunday, March 4, 2012

KL plans crackdown on illegal migrants

Many foreign workers including Bangladeshis face arrest threats in Malaysia as the immigration authorities are conducting periodic raids following an announcement of massive crackdown on "illegal" migrants.
Malaysia's home ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Mahmood Adam last week said they would start a massive crackdown on illegal foreign workers without mentioning the date.
Meanwhile, police on February 11 arrested over 100 migrant workers and refugees, said Kuala Lumpur-based migrants' rights body Tenaganita in a press statement on February 22.
"Many workers are living in a tense situation after the arrests," said Harun Al Rashid, a Bangladeshi working at a regional migrants' rights organisation, Caram Asia, in Kuala Lumpur.
It could not be learned immediately if there were any Bangladeshis among the arrestees, he said on February 26.
Bangladesh high commission's labour counsellor Mantu Kumar Biswas in Malaysia told The Daily Star he had no idea about such arrests.
"There might be some stray incidents of arrest, but not any wholesale roundup of foreign workers yet," he said over phone in his immediate response.
The foreign workers who have not registered or applied to the immigration authorities for regularisation under an amnesty programme are facing sheer threats of arrest, according to the Bangladeshi expatriates in Malaysia.
An estimated 5 lakh Bangladeshis work in Malaysia. According to the Bangladesh High Commission, around 2.7 lakh irregular Bangladeshis got registered and a few thousand of them returned home without giving any penalty.
The rest secured passports so they could apply for regularisation.
However, on average, 150 Bangladeshi expats are going to the high commission every day to secure passports so that they can apply for regularisation.
Under the amnesty programme, Malaysia started registering the irregular foreign workers and the immigration authorities started regularisation from October 10 last year. Since then, they extended the deadline thrice, last time from February 15 to April 10.
The country has so far registered around 1.3 million irregular foreign workers but regularised only around four lakh of them. Mantu Kumar Biswas said the Malaysian authorities did not mention the number of Bangladeshis regularised until now.
"The deadline for regularisation has been extended. I expect all Bangladeshis applying will be regularised," he said.
Meanwhile, Nazrul Islam Ajith, a Bangladeshi working in Kuala Lumpur, said he estimated there would be 1 to 1.5 lakh Bangladeshis who either did not get registered or did not maintain proper procedures in applying for work permits.
"One has to have a job and apply through the employer for work permit. But many Bangladeshis do not have employers," he said, adding that many applied through outsourcing companies. Both these types of workers' applications are being rejected, he said.
Earlier, outsourcing companies hired Bangladeshi workers to supply them to different companies, but many were involved in malpractices.
"I would suggest that those who wish to continue working in Malaysia immediately get a job and apply through employers for work permits," said the Bangladeshi who has been in Malaysia for over 10 years.
Meanwhile, Tenaganita condemned the arrest of migrants and said it was a failure of Malaysia that it could not regularise the workers who have got registered.
In a statement on February 22, it said the government rejected many applications for work permits, saying their employers' factories are either operating illegally or are built on land designated for agriculture.
"Illegal factories are not the fault of the workers, but this rejection of applications will undoubtedly affect migrants who will be the target of arrest and detention," said Tenaganita chief Irene Fernandez.