Corruption wreaks havoc in Malaysia's foreign workers industry - Lawyers

08 Jan 2024 02:30pm
The foreign workers industry is facing crisis due to widespread corruption within the relevant authorities. - BERNAMA FILE PIX
The foreign workers industry is facing crisis due to widespread corruption within the relevant authorities. - BERNAMA FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - The foreign workers industry is facing crisis due to widespread corruption within the relevant authorities.

Lawyer Arun Dorasamy said the industry was in turmoil as there were politicians, ministries and enforcement agencies allegedly exploiting the industry to siphon money and turn a profit through corrupt practices.

He said the root cause of the chaos in the industry was corruption, benefitting policy makers, ministers, enforcement agencies and politicians and none of them genuinely wanted to solve the problem.

He added that their primary interest was making money.

"As much as we need foreign workers, the country is in a mess because of collateral corruption everywhere, politicians, agencies (such as the Immigratuon Department and police) and ministries (such as the Home Ministry and Human Resources Ministry) are using this secondary way to siphon money.

"Do any of these party want to truly fix it? They don't because it is not their base interest and a way they can get money.

"Conducting one or two raids once in a while is nice for attention on social media and reports. It is enough for the enforcement agencies to show their bosses and the public that they are working and nothing is sincere," he said when contacted.

Therefore, he said there was a need for a massive cleanup of corruption and to set up an independent hotline or commission for foreign workers to lodge complaints.

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"The government must find a way, a mechanism where the voices, reports and problems faced by the foreign workers will be gaged and only then we can reduce some of the issues we have," he told Sinar Daily.

He added that he believed that once foreign workers have a platform to voice their complaints, authorities will be surprised by the information they would receive.

Arun also suggested going after employers and making jail sentences mandatory, especially for things related to the ill treatment of foreign workers.

He believed that human trafficking and inhumane treatment of foreign workers should be considered a serious crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, lawyer Yap Boon Jhoe highlighted the issue that revolved around the housing conditions of employees in Malaysia, particularly migrant workers.

He pointed out that despite the existence of the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities Act 1990 and the amendments in 2020, there were still problems with the living conditions provided to workers.

The Act has undergone some amendments in 2020 that set out the minimum standards of accommodation that must be complied with by employers or centralised accommodation providers who provide accommodation for employees.

The primary concern, he said was overcrowding and suggested that a stricter enforcement should be in place including fines of up to RM50,000 for breaching the Act.

"The Act sets out specific requirements on the conditions of employees’ accommodation.

"However, overcrowding is the primary cause of many migrants’ accommodation being in a deplorable state.

"Employers often cramp workers in tight and confined lodgings to save costs and space, causing serious hygiene issues," he said.

He said the 'mini Dhaka' raids conducted since late last year, targeted undocumented migrants rather than inspecting their housing conditions.

It is understood that the raid was carried out to address the influx of foreigners.

The raid also discovered premises being used as rental rooms which were in a disorderly, dirty and disgusting state believed to be inhabited by foreigners.

Yap said periodic checks by authorities on both employers and employees' accommodations were also essential for effective compliance with the Act, ultimately improving the living conditions of migrant workers.