Monday, July 18, 2016

MEF: Employment for refugees - comprehensive study and framework needed

KUALA LUMPUR: Any proposal to allow refugees to work in this country requires a comprehensive study and framework as it has the potential of giving rise to new problems.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director, Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said if refugees were allowed to work legally in the country, it might result in more refugees coming here.

Thus, he said, an inclusive solution to address the issue of refugees' employment was needed without compromising the humanitarian aspects.

"We are worried, if we allow them (refugees) to work here legally, it will contribute to the influx of refugees and migrants into this country, and it will surely create new problems," he told Bernama when contacted today.

Currently, there are some 151,560 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Malaysia is not a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol, thus the country does not recognise the refugees' status including the right of working.

"Based on the existing law, it is an offence for an employer to employ any refugee and legal action can be taken against the employer," said Shamsuddin.

"They (refugees) are productive and disciplined workers. That is why we see many companies willing to hire them.

"We understand that if the refugees are not given the chance to work, they will opt to work illegally and this will create new social problems and of course we don't want this ... that is why a solution is needed fast," he said.

Universiti Malaya's Department of Development Studies senior lecturer, Dr Lee Hwok Ann said if the refugees were not allowed to work formally in the country, it could drive them to illegal and undesirable activities.

He said employment of refugees would bring benefits to the economy of the country and help fill vacancies, especially jobs that the locals shunned.

"Employing refugees can generate significant benefits like new skills and knowledge, add diversity and at the same time, contribute to the national income," he said. — Bernama