Dec 31 deadline looms for illegals

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 25 Dec 2019

Show of hands: Immigration officers processing foreigners during the last minute rush for the B4G programme at the Immigration Department office in Seberang Jaya, Penang.

PETALING JAYA: As the Dec 31 deadline for the Back For Good (B4G) programme approaches, thousands of illegal foreign workers are racing against time to submit their applications to the Immigration Department, with department chief Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud reiterating there will be no extension given.

In George Town, the Penang Immigration department has been processing 1,200 applications over the last two days.

An officer at the department’s headquarters in Seberang Jaya said about 600 applications were processed each on Monday and yesterday.

“We expect the number to increase in the next few days. Since Monday, there have been thousands of foreigners who turned up to submit their applications under the B4G programme, ” he said yesterday.

The B4G programme implemented in Peninsular Malaysia until Dec 31 is aimed at giving illegal immigrants who have committed offences under the Immigration Act 1959/63 the chance to return to their countries of origin.

The illegal immigrants need to obtain complete identification documents from their respective embassies or high commissions before handing them over to the Immigration Office for processing.

Each foreigner only has to pay a RM700 for a compound and a special pass.

A check by The Star found that the queue was so long it surrounded the perimeter of the building, with 20 counters opened till midnight on Monday.

The department’s Penang director Muhamad Husni Mahmud said 9,678 foreigners had registered themselves under the programme which started in August.

“There are 7,268 men and 2,410 women from 11 countries, with Indonesia recording the highest number. We have collected about RM7mil from the programme so far, ” he said.

In Petaling Jaya, employers and federations have urged the Government to come up with comprehensive policies to deal with illegal foreign workers.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the government should cut out the red tape to enable illegal foreign workers to be sent back to their home countries.

He said that the RM700 compound was seen to be too expensive for illegals.

“The procedure is burdensome to illegals because they need to have the necessary papers and it is not easy.

“If a worker loses his passport, replacing it can be expensive as some embassies or agents charge up to RM8,000.

“To expect illegals to get these things done is a bit too much, ” he said when contacted.

Shamsuddin said the Government should facilitate with the various embassies to have less stringent procedures to enable such illegal foreign workers to be sent back to their countries.

He said Malaysia has been grappling with the issue on illegal foreign workers for years, adding that stricter enforcement and laws are needed to resolve it.

“There needs to be willpower to enforce the laws strictly so that no illegal worker would want to overstay, otherwise they would

face stiff penalties.

“This has been effective in Singapore, so I don’t see any harm in us emulating Singapore to deal with illegal workers, ” he added.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had on July 18 announced the B4G amnesty programme for illegal immigrants in a bid to repatriate undocumented foreigners by the end of the year.

The last amnesty programme, called “3+1 amnesty programme” ran from 2014 to August last year with 840,000 illegal immigrants repatriated and RM400mil in compounds collected.

Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok said he does not expect many illegal workers to be repatriated although many of them are involved in the vegetable farming sector.

“Farmers realise the bane in the over-reliance on foreign workers, but there has been a lack of hands in the sector for some time now.

“There is no viable short-term or long-term solution so far, especially with locals shunning working on farms.

“Also, with many of these illegal workers still wanting their jobs, they were hoping and waiting for a chance to get themselves legalised, ” he said when contacted.

According to Tan, the federation has over 6,000 members nationwide and it is learned that more than half of them have illegal workers on their farms.

“In Cameron Highlands alone there are about 1,500 farmers and a majority of them have no choice but to hire illegal workers, ” said Tan.

He said some 60% of farmers do not own their farmland, as such, the government should have a holistic approach to help them, including those who do not have a minimum three-year land lease to hire legal foreign workers.

However, he said illegal immigrants in the vegetable farming sector make up less than 10% of the total figure nationwide.

“The government should have done more to address such problems instead of issuing warnings that they would be strict to deport illegals, ” he said.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai hoped the Government can implement a one stop foreign workers management centre under a single ministry.

“Once and for all, settle this recalcitrant foreign workers and illegal immigrant problems, ” he said when contacted.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the body supported the B4G programme, but hoped the government would give some leeway for employers to iron out the issues to send back their employees.

“We also hope the government can introduce a single standard operating procedure for hiring foreign workers and put them under one ministry instead of several ministries

“If it is done under one roof, it will be easier for us, ” he said.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Datuk Ho Su Mong believes that the amnesty programme this time around may not see much take up as the association encouraged members to do away with undocumented workers during the first amnesty programme.

“It is a good move but I think the compound fee is too high.

“The economy is bad. If possible, the fine should be below RM500, which is more reasonable, ” he added.

Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee when contacted confirmed that there will not be an extension to the new amnesty programme.

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