Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Foreign workers cry foul as Malaysian authorities mull bill restricting activity (IHT/AP)

Foreign workers cry foul as Malaysian authorities mull bill restricting activity

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Foreign laborers in Malaysia's largest city denounced Monday proposed legislation that would restrict them to their work sites unless they receive special permission to leave.

Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said he intends to propose a bill next month that could see nearly 2 million foreign workers in the Southeast Asian nation confined to their living quarters, the Star newspaper Web site reported Sunday.

"We are not trying to confine the foreign workers ... but it will be better to supervise them for law enforcement," Radzi said.

Hundreds of foreign workers were visible in downtown Kuala Lumpur because of a public holiday on Monday, and several voiced concern about Radzi's proposal.

"We are helping the Malaysian economy. We are good people helping Malaysia. They should not be asking us to stay (at home) all the time," said Bangladeshi worker Mohammad Razzak Rafique. "Not all foreigners commit crimes. We are just trying to live."

Malaysia has long attracted migrants, many fleeing poverty from Southeast and South Asian countries like Indonesia, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. The government has said about 1.8 million foreigners work legally in Malaysia, while another 700,000 do not have proper papers.

Police Chief Musa Hassan said foreign laborers may be restricted to their living quarters and their "activities monitored" as part of efforts to curb crime. Musa said 5,000 crimes were committed by foreigners last year from a total of about 230,000.

Under the proposed legislation, foreign laborers will not be allowed to leave their homes unless they register beforehand, and their employers will be responsible their movements, Musa said.

One Indonesian worker called the proposed law discriminatory.

"We are different from the locals, maybe that's why they don't like us. We are an easy target," said construction worker Teguh, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. "To keep us in our beds when we have a day off is criminal."

The Associated Press (February 19, 2007)

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