Biometric system to compile data on illegal foreign workers

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 05 Aug 2008

KOTA KINABALU: With a massive crackdown on illegal foreign workers set to begin in the next 72 hours, a thumbprint-based biometric system will be enforced.

Although the Sabah Immigration Department is not calling it an amnesty or reprieve, the three-month registration exercise is generally perceived as an amnesty for employers hiring illegal immigrants from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Director, Baharon Talib said that employers who register their illegal workers, must also get their workers to obtain passports before applying for the work passes.

All data will be stored at the Immigration Department headquarters in Putrajaya, said Baharon.

“There will be no ‘receipts or documents’ issued to prevent forgeries,” he explained during a press conference by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman after chairing a state Security Council meeting.

Baharon said that the offer to employers was open to the plantation, construction, manufacturing, services and domestic maids sectors, with both the Philippines and Indonesian embassies ready to assist their citizens in obtaining the relevant documents.

He also disclosed that mobile biometric equipment has been set up to be used in the field.

Baharon explained that under the registration system, the workers need not return to their country of origin and their respective work passes will be processed locally.

There were about 220,000 registered foreign workers in Sabah, he said adding that the department hoped to be able to obtain the exact numbers working illegally, as well as their families, during the registration exercise.

For example, he said there were 74,000 legal plantation workers employed in Sabah’s 1.4 million hectare oil palm plantation industry but estimated there should be 150,000 workers based on one worker for every 8ha.

The registered workers would be allowed to renew their work passes for up to five years.

“After five years, they will have to return to their home country and can only seek re-employment after a six-month cooling off period,” Baharon added.

Musa urged employers to ensure that their workers were registered in a national effort to streamline and resolve Sabah's long-standing problem of illegal immigrants without disrupting its economy.

No dates were given on when the massive flush-out would begin but Musa said it was imminent. All illegal immigrants who are not registered by employers will be arrested and deported.

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