Saturday, January 16, 2010

Of Chinese New Year crackdown on employers ...and missing 'Indian' nationals..

Chinese New Year is on February 14 and 15, and the UMNO-led BN government has declared that they are going to start their crackdown on employers who hire undocumented migrant workers.

Was this date intentionally picked to antagonize the Malaysian Chinese community, noting that many of the employers of undocumented migrants are smaller Malaysian Chinese owned shops, restaurants, small factories, etc...

Clearly, this is an act that is insensitive to the people of multi-racial multi religious Malaysia. Starting the crackdown on a day that is very important to the Chinese community is very 'not Malaysian'. And for Chinese, their new year is a 14-day affair. So will be seeing many Malaysian Chinese businessmen now being arrested and hauled away during the Chinese New Year celebration.

I wonder whether this is an action that have political motives, i.e. is this done to attempt to 'threaten' Malaysian Chinese to start supporting the UMNO-led BN government. Is this the 'punishment' that is being meted out to Chinese for their voting against the BN in the last elections? Is this the attempt to force MCA and GERAKAN (and maybe also the MIC) to come crawling back to UMNO? After all, there is clearly much dissatisfaction within MCA and Gerakan about their continued existence within the Barisan Nasional. Now, this crackdown will certainly affect many of these party supporters...

The Malaysian government must realize that the practice of employing undocumented workers is been happening despite the various crackdowns... despite the fact that a number of employers have been charged. Hence, certainly the solution is not 'cracking down' on these migrant workers or their employers, and those that provide shelter for them.

What the government need to do is to conduct a detailed study as to why many of these small shops, restaurants, businesses, factories are still willing to risk employing undocumented workers? Is the process of employing documented migrants too cumbersome...too expensive... or maybe just unviable for these smaller businesses? Maybe, this current procedure involving agents here (and there), outsourcing companies, etc is just not working.

Maybe, it is time for Malaysia to consider a different method in dealing with undocumented migrants, noting that they are definitely needed by so many of the Malaysian businesses. Maybe, it is just better to get these employers to 'register' these undocumented workers at the nearest labour department hence legalizing these workers - and saving so much cost in arresting, detaining and deporting them. [After all, the government has disclosed that it cost about RM30 per day to keep in detention one undocumented worker, and this does not include healthcare/medical care - RM900-00 per detained undocumented worker. Then, of course there is that cost of deportation...]. Maybe, it is just better to get them all registered - thus guaranteeing their worker rights, and possibly also generating some income for the government.

Malaysia has yet again cowed down to US's lobby. The last one was that 'War Against Terror'...and not it is the US's 'War Against Trafficking of Human Persons'.

When someone is 'kidnapped' against their will and taken to Malaysia to work in oppressive slave-like conditions, without the freedom of movement, etc - we can say that this is trafficking. But migrants workers who 'sneaked' into Malaysia either by themselves, or with the help of others to work here are not 'trafficked persons' . Maybe, we can call them persons who have been smuggled into the country. So, the idea of using an Anti-Trafficking law against employers of undocumented migrant workers is an affront to common sense. It looks like Malaysia is 'kow-tow-ing' to the mighty US ...trying to show that it is doing a lot of things to combat trafficking of human persons...

We also have sufficient laws that can be used against persons employing (or harboring) undocumented migrants - and it is very wrong to even threaten people with the Anti-Trafficking Act.

So many undocumented migrants have been arrested in the past, but alas there was really not that much effort done even in investigating and determining their employers - let alone taking action against these employers. So, why now?

Wooing back the support of Malaysians have not been working for the UMNO-led BN. So, maybe now they are trying a different approach. After all that 'Allah' issue has obviously not worked in bringing back the Malay support, and has certainly weaken further the non-Muslim support of the UMNO-led BN. Now, is the new strategy to use of threats... remember the target of this Chinese New Year crackdown are the employers of undocumented migrants - and many of these are the small business owners... Promises have not worked...will threats work.

Recently, it was also highlighted that there were '40,000' Indian nationals that were missing - i.e. those who have entered the country with valid documents, but who have not left after their visas have expired. I wonder why only Indian Nationals are mentioned - for after all, there surely are hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of other 'missing' nationals of other countries. In Malaysia, in 2004, the Malaysian government disclosed that there were about 5,852,997 'missing' foreign nationals - and this was based on official entry-exit records only.  [ A Star 27/9/2005 reported the Malaysian government stating that their records  showed that 15,452,112 foreign nationals entered Malaysia in 2004 but only 9,599,125 people left the country during the year – meaning that there were about 5,852,997 or 38% of the total arrivals overstaying.]. Hence, the fact that there is only 40,000 'missing' now is really not at all such a big deal. The concern is why the Malaysian government just chose to highlight the data of just one particular nationality - has it got anything to do with the fact the the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia came originally from India?

The timing of these concerns raised by the UMNO-led BN government of Malaysia, i.e. about 'missing' Indian nationals...and about a major crackdown on employers of undocument migrants on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year can raise questions about the motives of this government. Or maybe, it was all just a coincidence and I have read too much into this...

Tougher penalties for hiring illegals

Farrah Naz Karim
Human trafficking law to be used from February 15.

PUTRAJAYA: There will be no second chance for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Come Feb 15, the authorities will throw the book at errant employers by also charging them under the the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (ATPA).

Currently, errant employers only face charges under the Immigration Act, which would see them being fined RM5,000 for each illegal worker. They also face whipping for harbouring illegals.

Errant employers will now face longer jail sentences and heavier fines when they are also charged under the ATPA.

Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman said harbouring or hiring illegal immigrants could be linked to offences under the APTA which include exploitation, debt bondage and slavery.
“These drastic measures are needed to curb the number of overstayers in the country.”

The department is now giving errant employers, including multinational companies, till Feb 15 to clean up their act, after which there will be no second chance.

He said during this period, the department would try to educate employers through associations, industries as well as fliers on the penalty for hiring or harbouring illegals.

“After that, we will go after them aggressively. They should come forward now because when we get them, charge them and push for maximum penalties, they cannot feign ignorance of the law," he said in an interview yesterday.

"Even if they come forward now and surrender their illegal workers, they would still have to face the law. They may get leniency from the department or from the court."

But there would be no leniency after Feb 15 as the chief justice, in a recent meeting with the department, had told prosecuting officers to push for the maximum sentence in each case, he said.

"We were told not to ask the court to use their discretion when sentencing those caught for hiring or harbouring illegals."

Rahman was responding to the issue of nearly 40,000 Indian citizens missing from Immigration records, stated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to visiting Indian journalists on Tuesday.

Rahman said the department could not give the exact number of foreigners who were overstaying here as many could have left Malaysia through illegal channels.

He said operations to weed out illegal immigrants would also focus on those who came into the country on student passes.

Last month alone saw 6,261 student passes issued in Peninsular Malaysia, with 1,014 granted to those from China (see table A). Last year, Sabah issued 150 student passes while Sarawak issued 8,306.

Rahman said many had abused the RM60-a-year pass to avoid heavier levies. Those who work in the service sector pay RM1,800 a year.

The department last year arrested 46,900 foreigners and locals for Immigration offences while 73 employers were charged with hiring illegals. More than 30 employers were also arrested for harbouring illegals.

Rahman said the country was also losing significantly in cash outflow where reports in 2006 revealed that US$2.7 billion (RM9.18 billion) was channelled out to Indonesia alone.

He said the current maximum fine of RM3,000 for overstaying, was not enough of a deterrent.

"Take a person working in the illicit flesh trade who makes RM300 a day and overstays for 60 days. They would have earned RM18,000. After being fined that amount, they would still return home with RM15,000."

Rahman said the department was expected to ensure tourists' arrivals were not impeded by strict enforcement at entry points.

He, however, revealed that the department had last year imposed the "Not Permitted to Land" ruling on 25,084 foreign individuals (refer to table B). - New Straits Times, 14/1/2010

1 comment:

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...


What a massive game of 'hide and seek'
Trying to avoid conditions that are bleak
Hiding among the hills and the creeks
Whether just for a few days or weeks

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 170110
SUN. 17th Jan. 2010.