Thursday, January 20, 2022

Amnesty, not arrests, needed for undocumented migrants, govt told

CAP says human life and the containment of Covid-19 should be the main concern, not the document a person holds.

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The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) today urged the government to grant amnesty to undocumented workers to encourage them to register for vaccination amid a heavy crackdown by the authorities despite earlier assurances that those who come forward would not be detained.

CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said raids on undocumented workers could push them into hiding which would exacerbate their living conditions and access to healthcare, contributing to the spread of Covid-19.

“The threat of arresting and imposing fines on illegal migrant workers will drive them into hiding and develop a distrust of the authorities because of flip-flop decisions,” he said.

“Why doesn’t the government, instead of bringing in migrant workers, grant amnesty to the existing undocumented migrant workers for them to apply for proper documentation for gainful employment?”

Putrajaya had initially said that it would extend its free vaccine programme to all foreigners as well as undocumented workers, in a bid to accelerate the goal of achieving herd immunity.

However, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin later said that undocumented migrants should be detained, to make it easier for authorities to administer the vaccines.

Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud meanwhile vowed to go after illegal immigrants whom he claimed worked in the country without paying taxes while “reap[ing] all the benefits”.

Since then, numerous raids have been conducted with hundreds arrested and taken to the immigration depot before being deported.

Yesterday, the immigration department said a total of 9,241 undocumented immigrants had been detained since early this year with 13,127 deported including children.

Khairul said 53,195 individuals were questioned in 2,011 operations as of July 8, while 80,865 people were repatriated through the recalibration programme implemented from Dec 21 to July 8.

Mohideen said that while such moves were said to be part of the government’s targeted approach to screening migrants for Covid-19 at detention centres, many remained unconvinced.

“Moreover, the virus is going to spread like wildfire in the crammed environment of the detention centres,” he said.

In a statement, he also spoke of stateless people who are denied basic rights to education, jobs and healthcare including Covid-19 jabs as they do not have the proper documentation.

“We reiterate our call to the government to address the concerns of undocumented migrant workers and stateless people out of compassion, as well as to save both the people and the economy as best it can,” he said.

“Given that we are living in unprecedented times, we should stop to consider whether the immigration status of a being overrides their position of being a human.

“Human life and the containment of the virus should be of paramount concern over that of the document a person holds, in this dire situation.”

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