Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Govt Asks Human Resources Ministry to Handle Migrant Workers

Govt Asks Human Resources Ministry to Handle Migrant Workers

A human rights activist has called for the government’s urgent attention to what he sees as a need to transfer responsibility for migrant workers from the home ministry to the human resources ministry.

North-South Initiative director Adrian Pereira said the home ministry’s recent move to arrest all undocumented persons for Covid-19 vaccination had eroded trust in the government’s plan to vaccinate everyone, and had added to the ministry’s poor record in managing migrant workers.

Pereira told FMT the transfer of responsibility was long overdue, given the rise in labour-related abuses and human trafficking.

He pointed out that the proposal for the human resources ministry to take over migrant worker management was included in the 11th Malaysia Plan.

Former human resources minister M Kulasegaran told FMT an independent committee recommended the portfolio transfer when Pakatan Harapan was in power but the home minister opposed it.

“In other countries, foreign workers are managed by the HR ministry,” he said. “It is only in Malaysia that there is a jurisdiction split between the home and HR ministries.”

Kula said it was best in the meantime for the government to give a blanket amnesty to all undocumented persons so as to get them vaccinated.

Referring to the recalibration programme, he said there was a need to rethink the requirement for undocumented workers to produce their passports in order to be allowed to continue in employment.

He said most migrant workers were forced to travel long distances to their embassies and endure lengthy bureaucratic processes. This would also deter prospective employers from taking the legal path.

“Harsh tactics by the home ministry have not worked before,” he said.

Kula urged the home ministry to disclose how many migrant workers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 since it started its raids on the undocumented workers.

Refugee policy researcher Aslam Abd Jalil told FMT efforts to vaccinate migrants would be futile if the raids were to continue.

“It would be harder for the government to reach out to them if it seems like they will be punished,” he said. “Even if they are unwell, they are not likely not to come out for fear of arrest.

“For the sake of public health and the country’s security, it is imperative to deal with this issue from a public health perspective, not an immigration perspective.”

Last month, home minister Hamzah Zainudin announced that raids against undocumented migrant workers would begin during the lockdown, but this was met with howls of protest from NGOs and opposition MPs.

Hamzah defended the plan, saying embassies would be asked to issue the detainees with papers and the government would vaccinate them afterwards.

He said the move was of national interest as most of the undocumented migrant workers were in hiding and would refuse to get vaccinated if they were not rounded up.