Saturday, February 24, 2007

Foreign workers can be freed within 24 hours

Foreign workers can be freed within 24 hours

Saturday, 24 February 2007, 08:02am

By Tan Kok Kean and Yuen Meikeng
Foreign workers detained by enforcement agencies for not having proper documents will be released within 24 hours if their employers can produce valid papers.

Previously it took up to a week before the workers were released.

On Thursday, a foreign worker was released within three hours after her employers produced her original documents to Immigration officers after she had been detained during an operation by Rela members.

Immigration enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said the department had in place a system whereby his officers would be able to check the status of a worker with their operation centres.

“Our officers have been told to inform the respective employers when any of their workers have been detained.

“Employers must bring along all original documents and if everything is in order, we will release their workers immediately,” he told The Star.

It is learnt that the Immigration director-general has issued a directive empowering the deputy director-general, enforcement director and respective state directors to issue letters to the investigating officers as well as the heads of Immigration detention centres for the immediate release of legal workers.

Ishak said all legal workers should have their identification cards issued by the department that states their employer's name and address as well as their employment status including passport and visa numbers.

However, he said there could be technical problems in ensuring that all workers received the cards.

“Employers should ensure that their foreign workers know their passport numbers and their employer's contact numbers or even their relatives' numbers for the department to contact.

He said that employers could call the Immigration operation centres to enquire on the whereabouts of their workers.

Ishak said: “When our officers conduct operations to flush out illegals, we will ask them to produce some kind of identification.”

He said if the workers fail to provide any document, they would be taken to detention centres.

“If the workers can show us some kind of document then we will verify with our operation centres and contact their respective employers.”

Citing an example, Ishak said an Indonesian woman was picked up by Rela members at Sungei Penchala in Selangor on Thursday and was handed over to Immigration officers.

“Upon checking, we found her to be a legal worker working at a laundrette and her employers immediately took her back from the Lenggeng detention centre.”

The laundrette owner, who wanted to be identified only as Chew, expressed her gratitude to the department for its swift action.

She said she was informed by her employee's husband that his wife had been detained by Rela members and taken to several centres for questioning.

“We sought the assistance of The Star and within minutes were in touch with the Immigration Department which confirmed that our worker was under detention.

“They confirmed she was a legal worker and with the assistance of the director-general as well as Datuk Ishak, my worker was released shortly,” she said.

Rela director-general Datuk Zaidon Asmuni said they had the authority to conduct operations to flush out illegal workers but not to release them.

He said his officers would have to lodge a police report if those rounded up or detained could not produce any valid documents to back their claims.

The Immigration operation centre contact numbers are 03-88801555 and 03-88801556.

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