KUALA LUMPUR: The government is expected to make its final decision on whether to allow refugees to work here in December, the Dewan Rakyat was told.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said he was made to understand that there will be some easing in regulations, but there are no concrete details on any changes of policy, as the Cabinet had yet to make its decision.
"I believe a decision will be made between Dec 10 and 15 after a committee to discuss the matter had been set up and it will be announced to all Malaysians," he said when winding up the Supply Bill 2020 for his ministry at the committee stage at Dewan Rakyat.
Ahmad Tarmizi Sulaiman (PAS-Sik) had asked the government whether it has any intention to allow refugees to work in the country, since they are already working in several sectors such as plantations.
Kulasegaran said that personally, he believed that refugees should be allowed to work here and had advocated it even when he was in the Opposition.
"We all know that they are here, so why must we go overseas to hire foreign workers.
"That is why we had several discussions with various ministries, and a decision will be made soon.
"But on registering them, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are already issuing cards to them.
" As you mentioned, when they go to work, they sometimes get detained by authorities.
"This will cause a lot of problems for them.
"If they are allowed to work, in my personal view, we have labour laws.
"We know they are working here, but our labour laws cannot protect them.
"It does not cover their human rights, like providing minimum wage, although we have labour laws to protect Malaysians," added Kulasegaran.
As of June this year, there were more than 170,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. The majority are adults aged 18-59 and males, and therefore of a working, taxpaying age.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol, and lacks a legal or administrative framework regulating the status and rights of refugees, who are considered undocumented migrants under the Immigration Act, and are at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation.
In its manifesto for the 14th General Election (GE14) in May last year, Pakatan said that it would ratify the 1951 International Convention on refugees so that refugees who escape from war-torn countries and arrive in Malaysia are given proper assistance.
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