Government Plans to Recalibrate Undocumented Immigrants

Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainuddin (right) with Datuk Seri M Saravanan

IN light of the difficulties in obtaining manpower by employers in this pandemic era, the government has announced a programme to recalibrate undocumented immigrants in order to make them legal for employment.

This was announced by the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin at his Ministry yesterday, after a meeting with the Minister for Human Resources Datuk Seri M Saravanan.

The recalibration programme that will be implemented from Nov 16 2020 through June 30 2021, will consist of two components; one which allows undocumented immigrants to register themselves to be employed in the four 3-D (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) sectors namely construction, manufacturing, plantation and agriculture, while the other allows them to return to their respective countries.

When asked about the difference compared to the previous amnesty programmes Hamzah stressed that this programme does not involve third-party vendors. 

“All undocumented immigrants in this country who wish to participate in either component must register themselves directly with the Peninsular Malaysia’s Department of Human Resources. If they and their employers meet the pre-requisites, then they will be allowed to work,” he explained.

The government expects to collect RM90 million from compounds and fines through this recalibration programme.  

Only undocumented immigrants from the 15 countries listed as allowed to be employed, who are already in Malaysia may participate in this programme.  

There are about 20,000 undocumented immigrants being held at the immigration detention centres.

This move would definitely help the industries mentioned above.  Early July,  Malaysian Employers Federation Executive Director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the plantation sector might lose RM142 billion in their operations this year due to a shortage of workers, while shortage of workers in the agriculture sector would lead to an increase in the price of vegetables.

Although both the Home Affairs and Human Resources Ministries have said that employers interested in the recalibration programme will have to abide by a certain ratio of foreign versus local worker limit that is to be set, it is interesting to see how many Malaysians would actually be interested in the 3-D jobs.

When the Selayang wholesale market faced a shortage of foreign workers a few months ago due to the area coming under the Enhanced Controlled Movement Order, there was a lukewarm response by Malaysians to fill in the vacancies.

Datuk Shamsuddin explained that this was not just about the wages offered. 

Although Malaysians earn double that of their foreign counterparts, the former are not used to working in such environments.

“Locals are not keen on staying long in these kinds of jobs.  They need to be brave and strengthen their attitude towards working less favourable jobs and should treat all jobs with respect.”

His main worry is that once the economy improves, the Malaysians would not want to stay in those 3-D sectors.  Therefore, Malaysia will always have that reliance on foreign workers.

Malaysians are, of course, sceptical about any such programme.  Previous amnesty programmes, especially those run by third-party vendors have always been open to abuse.  

Despite having the 6P amnesty programme in 2011, the number of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, increased by 1.013 million between 2010 and 2019.

To allay this fear, Hamzah said that the wages that are to be paid to the legalised immigrants under this recalibration scheme will only be done electronically (e-Wages).

“When there is no money being deposited by the employer, then we will know that they are no longer being employed.  It would be easier for us to track them down.”

Any employer caught employing an undocumented immigrant after June 30 2021 will be fined RM50,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months per worker. If they are caught with five or more undocumented worker, the penalty shall include whipping.

(This article first appeared on The Mole )

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