PETALING JAYA: A coalition of NGOs working on migrant rights have urged the government to come up with a comprehensive policy on labour migration.
The Right to Redress Coalition (R2R) said there were many contentious issues associated with labour migration in Malaysia, and they were not problems that can be ignored.
R2R member Rani Rasiah said that given the significance of migrant workers to the economy, and their numbers, it is not a problem we can afford to ignore.
She estimates that migrant workers make up one third of the workforce, and 20% of our population.
More than half the migrant workforce in the country is undocumented, she added.
"Certain economic sectors have become so dependent on migrant workers that there’s a fear of collapse if they are withdrawn," said Rani who is with the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).
She pointed out that the conflicting decisions by the government in relation to the 1.5 milion Bangladeshi workers issue served as an example why a comprehensive policy was needed.
"What is the basis of bringing in workers? Shouldn’t it be based on manpower needs of the country?" she said.
Rani said the demand for migrant workers doesn’t seem to complement the local workforce, but rather to replace it with cheaper labour.
She said there was an urgent need to honestly evaluate the situation and formulate a comprehensive national policy on labour migration.
Such a policy she said should be based on a reliable assessment of the manpower needs of the country, and respect for the workers’ and human rights of the entire workforce, local and migrant.
"Such a policy should remove the profit incentive from labour migration, and help clear among others, Malaysia’s terrible track record in human trafficking and forced labour," she said.
Rani said that R2R are conducting a series of roundtables on several aspects with the different stakeholders in this issue.
They will also present their recommendations to the government after that are fine with their roundtables.
The Right to Redress Coalition (R2R) is a coalition of NGOs - Tenaganita, Sahabat Wanita, North South Initiative, MTUC, Penang Stop Human Trafficking, PSM, and Jerit - whose first project was to campaign for right to redress for migrant workers.