Slippery slope: Don’t tag and profile migrant workers, govt urged


PETALING JAYA: The government should abandon the idea of making it compulsory for all foreign workers to wear identifying wristbands in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, says Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).

Its coordinator Zaid Malek said such a move would be discriminatory towards migrant workers, when the focus should be on ensuring that their living quarters are spacious enough to accommodate them.

“The ramifications of migrant workers having to wear identifying wristbands are obviously and plainly catastrophic.

“This chilling suggestion essentially means that the government is legalising or formalising prejudicial profiling under the pretext of combating Covid-19.

“Not only will (migrant workers) be made easy targets for harassment by the authorities, they will also be susceptible to discrimination by the general public, ” he said in a statement Thursday (Nov 19).

READ ALSO: NSC tells ministries to jointly resolve foreign workers’ housing issue

His statement came after Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government is considering making it compulsory for all foreign workers to wear wristbands.

“We cannot prevent them from moving around and we cannot even differentiate between the faces of Bangladeshi workers, Myanmar workers and us.

“We are discussing whether there is a need for all foreign workers to wear wristbands, so that we will know when they are out, ” he told a press conference on Wednesday (Nov 18).

LFL’s Zaid said that there was “no discernible or logical reason” for the authorities to compel all migrant workers to wear wristbands.

“The spread of the infection among them, as the Minister himself readily admits in the same press conference, is due to the cramped living conditions they are forced to stay in.

“Therefore, the focus should then be on taking legal action against the employers or agents who forced them to live in cramped houses in the first place.

“Equally to blame are the enforcement agencies who have allowed this situation to perpetuate for years, ” he said.

Zaid added that the government can ramp up enforcement on employers who are in breach of the amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990.

“We thus urge the government to abandon the idea of branding migrant workers in this manner, as if they were cattle; and to stop making any statements or discriminatory policies that may encourage xenophobic or intolerant acts against the migrant community, ” he said.

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