PUTRAJAYA: All illegal foreign workers will now be prosecuted and punished before they are sent home.
And the courts have been told to speed up the trials of employers who harbour illegal workers.
These are among the measures announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to curb the influx of illegal immigrants which was at an all-time high.
Previously, only illegal immigrants arrested at random were prosecuted while those arrested during specific operations were detained at holding depots before being deported.
We feel that prosecuting only those arrested at random while sparing those arrested during special operations is unfair as both groups should be treated the same, he said.
Under the Immigration Act, illegal immigrants and those who harbour or employ them face fines of up to RM10,000 per offence, a jail sentence of up to five years, or both, with whipping.
Employers can also be fined up to RM50,000 for every illegal worker they employ.
There are an estimated 500,000 illegal foreign workers in the country.
Based on the current trend, unless we are more diligent in tackling the issue, we will face a situation where foreign workers will make up 30% (of the work force) or five million, by 2010, Najib said.
That is why we need to put in place all these new measures so that we can effectively control the number of such workers, he told reporters after chairing the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers at the Home Ministry here.
Najib said that up to June 1, there were 1,304,272 legal foreign workers in the country as against 801,222 on April 1, 2002, an increase of about 500,000.
In addition to the 1.3 million legal foreign workers, an estimated 700,000 foreigners were working illegally in the country.
Najib said the committee also agreed to allow maids who faced difficulties in working for their employers to request for another employer, for up to three times for the duration of their contract.
He said a technical committee would be set up to carry out a rationalisation of the existing system and regulations on the intake of foreign workers.
The committee would also look at how to tackle the problem of abuse of permits to bring in foreign workers as well as the exploitation of foreign workers.
He said that while the Government acknowledged the contribution of foreign workers in increasing the countrys production capacity and economy, the high increase could affect the countrys security.
Najib said the Immigration Department and the police would be directed to prosecute all illegal workers that they apprehended, including those arrested during special operations.
This is in line with the principle that those who come illegally into the country have broken the law, he said.
He said the committee also noted that while a high number of illegal foreign workers had been prosecuted under the Immigration Act (Amendment 2002), which also provides for whipping upon conviction, not a single employer who has been prosecuted had been punished.
He said that this did not reflect the seriousness of their offence and thus was not a deterrent to others.
We hope the courts will take cognisance of this fact and try to expedite the cases because this involves national interests. The system needs to be looked at again if this problem is to be tackled effectively, he added.
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