Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has criticised a suggestion for migrant workers to wear identifying wristbands, equating the move to the legalisation of “prejudicial profiling under the pretext of combating Covid-19”.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said in a statement that the proposal, raised by Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday, would only open migrants to public discrimination and make them easy targets for harassment by the authorities.
“The government is incentivising xenophobic behaviour by again perpetuating fear-mongering that migrants are the cause for rising Covid-19 infection.
“Migrants cannot be blamed for a worldwide pandemic,” he said today.
Zaid’s statement followed a spate of Covid-19 cases linked to a construction site in Kuala Lumpur.
The Tapak Bina Damanlela cluster saw 385 cases on Nov 16 and 206 the following day.
Noting that Ismail had said in the same press conference that the spread of infection among migrant workers was due to their cramped living conditions, Zaid said legal action should instead be taken against employers or agents who put them in such situations.
“We 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 attacks or intolerant acts against the migrant community,” he said.
“The government must also take immediate and stern action against irresponsible employers/agents as they bear heavy responsibility for the spread of Covid-19 among migrant workers. Equally to blame are the enforcement agencies who have allowed this situation to perpetuate for years.”
Maintaining that there is no logical reason to make migrant workers wear wristbands, he said such “forced identification marks upon certain segments of the population raises disturbing memories of Nazism”.
“There is no data to suggest that Covid-19 infection originates from migrant workers,” he said.