MIRI: Restaurants and coffee shop operators along North Yu Seng Road here are unhappy with the Immigration Department for raiding their premises on Monday and Tuesday and want Miri City Council to intervene.
Mayor Lawrence Lai told reporters yesterday that he would arrange a dialogue session between MCC, the operators, Immigration Department and Labour Department to resolve the issue.
Lai said the operators were unhappy with the manner the operations were carried out.
“They (operators) also claimed foreign workers with valid passports were among those rounded and detained for investigation.
“They are puzzled over the rationale for detaining workers with valid passports, which may validate their work permit in the state. Most of the foreigners rounded up are Filipinos and Indonesians.”
Lai hoped the Immigration Department would clear the air quickly.
“There must be guidelines and code of conduct to be followed by officers when they conduct such operations. I believe the operators of such well-known and famous entertaining and dining outlets will not simply hire workers without going through the screening processes or getting permits for their workers.”
He said he was told by an immigration officer that more than 30 foreigners were rounded up on Monday and Tuesday, and that they had been detained for 14 days at the Immigration Deportation Centre to facilitate investigation.
“The operation to weed out illegal immigrants was mounted by enforcement teams from Kuching,” said Lai, who stressed that hiring of workers, especially foreigners, for such establishments was not under the jurisdiction of MCC.
“They are under the jurisdiction of the Immigration and Labour departments. We only issue them with the licence to operate.”
Lai lamented that the operations might cast a bad image of the city on outsiders, especially tourists.
“All the restaurants and drinking places where the operations were carried out by the department are along the tourism corridor at North Yu Seng Road.
“This area is frequented by tourists and visitors to Miri. Locals always bring their family, relatives and friends from overseas for dining and entertainment there at night,” said Lai.
Meanwhile, when contacted, state Immigration director Datu Robert Lian said his department and other relevant enforcement agencies had been carrying out concerted operations under ‘Ops Bersepadu’ to rid the nation of illegal workers.
“My advice to employers in Sarawak, in this case, the restaurants and coffee shop operators in Miri is to abide by the rules. If they have valid working permits their employees would never have been rounded up,” he said.
Robert reminded employers that if their workers had been rounded up but they (the employers) have their work permits then they should not be duly worried.
“We only rounded up those without proper work permits, but if they (the employees) do have them because they are kept by their employers, then they (the employers) should come forward and ascertain the validity of the passes of their employees.”
He warned that under immigration laws, any employer(s) hiring illegal worker(s) could be fined up to RM10,000 per worker.