Illegals likely cause of TB spike

Workers entering state illegally without checkup, pose danger to health of people in Sarawak

KUCHING: Foreign workers working in the country legally are not likely to be the cause of the rise of tuberculosis cases in the country.

This is because foreigners with contagious diseases are prohibited from entering the country including students applying for student visas.

Responding to the recent claim of Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam that foreign workers made up 12 to 13 per cent of the 20,000 reported TB patients in 2011, State Immigration Director Datuk Robert Lian believed that these workers were those who entered the country illegally.

Speaking to The Borneo Post recently, he pointed out that under Section 8 of Immigration Act 1959/63, “any person suffering from mental disorder or suffering from a contagious disease which makes his presence in Malaysia dangerous to the community” will be classified as “prohibited persons” and will be barred from entering the country.

And anyone who “refuses to submit to a medical examination after being required to do so by an Immigration Officer” will also be considered a “prohibited person” he added.

Robert stressed that the state’s Immigration Department had always adhered to the Act before issuing foreigners work permits.

“The illegal workers do not have to go through the due process of medical checkup to determine their health condition. Maybe some foreign illegal workers are carrying contagious diseases we are not sure because their employers refuse to bring them to us.”

Presently, there is about 150,000 legal foreign workers and an estimated 15,000 illegal workers the state.

Robert said employers who recruited workers illegally should realise that they were jeopardising the health of their fellow citizens including their own family members.

The director added that it was especially dangerous to employ maids illegally as many of them had to cook and look after the babies for the family employing them.

“These maids will be staying in close proximity with the family engaging them and we have to make sure that these maids are not carrying any contagious diseases,” said Robert.

He admitted that there were some cases where the first screening of foreign workers might not show that they were unfit to work here but once they were found to carry contagious diseases they would be sent home after being given medication for their sicknesses.

The state’s Health director Datuk Dr Zulkifli Jantan recently revealed that there were 2,000 TB cases reported in 2010, and 2,055 in 2011. In 2012, there was an increase of about 400 cases to 2,430 and there has been an average increase of 0.8 per cent of TB cases every year.

Sarawak is currently ranked only behind Sabah and Selangor in the number of TB cases.

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