PUTRAJAYA: The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) has called on the government to respect and safeguard the dignity and rights of migrant workers in Malaysia in its International Migrants Day message.
The human rights watchgroup expressed concern with the amplification of “discriminatory and xenophobic practices” towards migrant workers in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The contribution of migrant workers to the development and economy of Malaysia is undeniably immense.
“Hakam observed that xenophobia in Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic had hit an all-time high, with many anti migrant statements and policies against migrants and refugee populations.
“The immigration raids during the pandemic also caused Covid-19 clusters in immigration detentions.
“As a member of the United Nations and signatory to key human rights and labour conventions and international standards, the Malaysian government should not use the pandemic as an excuse to relegate its obligation to protect the rights of migrant workers in the country, ” said Hakam deputy president Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam in a statement Friday (Dec 18).
Ramachelvam said while the Covid-19 pandemic had affected Malaysians and migrants alike, the latter has been more disproportionately hit by job terminations, wage cuts and involuntary repatriation.
“Many were stranded without their source of income when companies shut while others declared bankruptcy.
“With flights grounded and international borders closed, migrants had no avenue to return home.
“While migrant workers have always faced constant discrimination and exploitation, the pandemic only highlighted the vulnerability of the population further, ” he said.
Ramachelvam said migrant workers, too, had served as frontliners throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns in the country.
“Migrant workers served as frontliners alongside Malaysians, in amongst others, health, transportation and food services to make our lives more bearable.
“We salute all frontliners who unselfishly served the nation in this time of need, ” he said.