- Advertisement -

Govt warned of continuing cycle if undocumented migrants deported amid labour shortage

Given Malaysia's reliance on foreign labour, deporting the undocumented migrants presently in the country would only require more workers to be brought in, says Lawyers for Liberty.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Foreign workers carry out their tasks at a construction site in Jalan Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.
Foreign workers carry out their tasks at a construction site in Jalan Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at a minister’s response to the proposal of legalising undocumented migrants for the workforce, warning of a continuing cycle if they are instead deported given Malaysia’s heavy reliance on foreign labour.

In a statement, LFL director Zaid Malek said the fact of the matter was that a large portion of the country’s economic sector was reliant on migrant workers.

“Deporting them in swathes would create a vacuum in our labour force which would in turn necessitate us to bring in more migrant workers to replace them, thus creating the cycle of undocumented workers again.

“It would be easier, more humane and more cost effective to legalise those who are readily available here,” he said.

He was responding to Human Resources Minister M Saravanan who said last week that the best move would be to deport undocumented migrants to their home countries.

Adding that it would be “stupid” to legalise them for the workforce, Saravanan said this would only encourage more migrants to enter the country illegally.

Zaid said the minister’s response was “outrageous and disappointing” given his previous commitment to tackling the issue of forced labour.

“The minister’s reaction is simplistic, superficial and ignores the root causes of the entry of undocumented migrants into the country,” he added.

“The undocumented migrants are largely victims of circumstances beyond their control; they are not deliberate offenders against our immigration laws. Having been duped by deceitful agents or unscrupulous employers, they have become ‘illegal’ as a result.”

He added that deporting them would be “cruel and unjust” as it would amount to placing the fault on the exploited while the agents and employers responsible escaped with a slap on the wrist.

“The government must face the fact that the majority of undocumented migrants in our country are a result of our inadequate labour policies and weak or corrupt enforcement, and embark upon a comprehensive and practical solution to this long-standing problem.”