GEORGE TOWN: Biometrics like fingerprint scanners in proposed blue-collared foreign worker dormitory complexes are for residents’ security and not to “keep them in”, says state Housing Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo (pic).
“They will be free to walk in and out as they please, but we will make sure non-residents cannot be in the premises without the knowledge of the security personnel,” he said.
Jagdeep was commenting on concerns raised by local activists over foreign worker dormitory complexes.
Scientist and researcher Mary Chin wrote on aliran.com that “outside paid hours, workers should be free to go wherever they like.
“Biometrics-tagging to restrict and monitor their movements is completely unacceptable”.
A movement called the Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign also expressed concern that foreign workers-only residential complexes would segregate them and instil xenophobia among locals.
Jagdeep said he empathised with the concerns of civil society and assured them that such dorms were not attempts to keep foreign workers out of sight.
He said the “anchor tenants” of the dorms would be employees of multinational companies (MNCs).
“The MNCs have to provide good housing benefits to keep their workers happy and productive.
“So, management companies that win the state government’s tenders for the dorms must ensure good facilities and well-managed residences to satisfy the MNCs.”
As for local residents near such premises, Jagdeep said the dorms would relocate all the foreign workers now living among them in their residential areas.
“We are aware of locals being uncomfortable. The dorms will address all their worries,” he added.
Jagdeep shared with The Star the state’s 11-page planning guidelines for foreign-workers-only residences that the management companies should adhere to.
Among the requirements are that the management must ensure that the workers are grouped in the dorms or units with due regard for their gender, countries of origin and religion.
Pets will not be allowed. Nor can there be gambling, prostitution or boozing with 24/7 security and CCTV cameras to maintain the peace.
No more than 5,000 residents will be allowed on every two acres to ensure sufficient living space for all.
The management company must provide WiFi, recreation facilities, minimarkets, clinics, laundry services, ATM machines and money wiring services, among others.
“The paymasters of the management companies are the foreign workers’ employers, many of whom are large corporations with a commitment towards good human resource management practices.
“If anything goes wrong, the dorms’ management must answer to these clients and not the residents,” Jagdeep said.
Five such dorms have been approved in Bukit Minyak, Juru, Permatang Tinggi and Valdor on the mainland areas and in Permatang Damar Laut on the island.
Two more dorms in North Science Park and Batu Kawan have been earmarked.