PETALING JAYA: The Immigration Department will begin a nationwide crackdown from Feb 15 on thousands of employers believed to be harbouring or employing illegal workers.
The operation will be carried out with the help of police and Rela.
Currently there are about 1.8 million approved foreign workers in the country, and the department be-lieves there are at least an equal number of illegal ones.
Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman said the department was already meeting with employer associations and groups before the deadline to “educate” them on the immigration laws and policies for hiring foreign workers.
“From Jan 5, we have been having dialogues with associations such as the Malaysian Employers’ Federation and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers,” Abdul Rahman said in an interview yesterday.
He said employers should be more responsible and understand that the Immigration Act prohibited keeping workers with expired visas.
“The opportunities for work here and willingness of some employers to keep illegal workers are to be blamed. It’s all about supply and demand,” he added.
Abdul Rahman said no employers had been charged lately as it was difficult to gather enough evidence to enable prosecution.
“To build a proper case, we would need the punch cards, salary slips and contracts between the employers and their workers,” he said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told Indian journalists that more than 39,000 Indian tourists, mostly from Chennai, had abused their visa-on-arrival (VOA).
Abdul Rahman said most of the 39,000 “missing” Indians were believed to be in the country’s economic hotspots of the Klang Valley, Penang, Perak and Johor Baru, which had many employment opportunities.
It was reported that 75,645 out of 248,939 foreigners issued with VOAs between September 2006 and September 2008 had misused their visas.
They were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Myan-mar, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Abdul Rahman said enforcement was also hindered by the easy assimilation of the southern Indians to Malaysian society.
He added that the three countries with the most number of “missing” citizens in Malaysia were India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but was unable to furnish any figures.
Tourism Malaysia figures placed arrivals from India at 590,000 in 2009, a 7.1% increase from 2008. Most of them cited sight-seeing, visiting friends and attending conferences as their reasons for coming here.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Employers’ Federation executive director Samsudin Baradan said the federation had warned its members not to retain or hire workers whose visas had expired.
However, Samsudin said it was understandable that some companies were hiring and harbouring workers illegally.
“It is not easy to get foreign workers because of the costs and procedures involved,” he said.
He added that the federation had been pleading with the department to be more consistent in its policies regarding foreign workers.
“The policies keep changing. We only come to know the changes through the media.
“The department should brief our members before implementing such policies,” he said.
For example, Samsudin said many companies were caught by surprise by an April 2009 policy that forced them, instead of their workers, to pay the levy of about RM1,800 per worker per year.
“It’s like you can do it today but tomorrow, you cannot. It is ad hoc, it is a knee-jerk reaction,” he said.
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