Saturday, February 29

Trying out a new plan

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Their hiring should be legally arranged.

ITS aim: zero illegal immigrants in Malaysia.

I’d say that any legal means at all will do, just so that Malaysia could get rid of illegal immigrants from its population, FIRST.

SECOND, let them come back, if they wish. On a clean slate, we will recruit foreign workers, this time around, the legal way – proper channels of recruitment, fair terms and conditions of employment, including the mandatory agreement to return to their home country when the contract or its extension expires.

Both parties would feel mutually secure: the worker possesses the necessary permit to work here without worrying about being deported while the permit is still valid and the Malaysian employer is assured of the required number of workers that he needs for his factory or plantation to function well.

Comprehensive scheme

That seems to be the thinking of the federal government when it announced last week that it would launch a new plan this year now that the B4G has expired. The amnesty exercise was not spectacularly successful because there were too many illegal immigrants to handle by one exercise and many employers were not fully cooperating.

This new plan is a comprehensive one, “aimed at ensuring that Malaysia achieves zero illegal immigrants in the set period through the strengthening of governance and existing enforcement work system” Bernama reported on Dec 31, 2019.

A policy along this line – let the illegal immigrant go back to his country, first, then recruit him as a legal worker if he comes back, is sensible and thus deserves to be supported by everybody.

Malaysia has been relying on foreigners to work in our factories and plantations. We cannot do without foreign workers. This is a basic necessity if the factories and plantations are to be sustainable.

To begin with, these foreigners have any number of reasons for coming to our country: political, economic, religious, etc. While in the country, they want to earn a living in order to survive. Those who find living conditions conducive, would want to stay. Human beings behave that way.

Past plans such as the amnesty programme and the B4G have not been spectacularly successful to induce all the illegal immigrants to go home.

The B4G (Back For Good), started in August last year, attracted only 130,000 illegal applicants out of so many out there who are not easy to identify. However, the programme was a good start in our quest for zero illegal immigrants in this country.

Our hope now is pinned on the new approach.

The 5 strategies

Bernama of Dec 31, 2019 reported that, “The holistic plan, which was drawn up by the ministry in June this year, also involves the state governments, local authorities, Village Community Management Councils (MPKK), and Village Security and Development Committees (JKKK).”

The setting up of the MPKK has been the subject of debate in Sarawak. If every council has a role to help identify illegal immigrants in its area of operation, then that council would be an asset to the community it serves. It will be a useful addendum to the existing JKKK. The two sets of grassroots leaders should work hand in hand to make the new plan a success.

The five strategies – enforcement; border control and entry point; management of foreigners; media; and publicity – should work.

These are nothing new, but there’s no harm trying to revamp the system plus a couple of good ideas. Every plan is good; it’s a matter of strict enforcement and the integrity of the people authorised to enforce the rules and standard operating procedures. More importantly, it’s the attitude of the many employers in Malaysia who prefer to recruit cheap labourers without having to go through the rigmarole of official bureaucracy. Such employers should change their way of employing foreign workers if the zero illegal immigrants scheme is to succeed.

What seems to be new, however, is the idea stated above – getting the ordinary citizens involved in seeing to it that eventually there will be only legal immigrant workers in Malaysia.

What an excellent idea – ordinary citizens are the best eyes and ears of the government. In Sarawak, during the colonial time and after the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, every village/longhouse chief was empowered to report the presence of any stranger found in his village or longhouse and to report the matter to the authorities.

The system has proven to be effective in identifying who is and who is not a genuine visitor among the community. Apply this technique to identify illegal immigrants in your midst in your flats, in your neighbourhood, in your work place, and the Immigration Department will have an easy job to carry out the new plan.

This method should work well if the employer is a genuine employer and the foreigner is in need of a job, not a conman nor a dubious character away from home country and trying his luck in another country like Malaysia.

Hopefully, Malaysia will remain a good boy in the eyes of the world, actually in the eyes of the US State Department, in terms of oppressing the foreigners and of treatment of human trafficking. At the moment, Malaysia is being placed on Tier 2 Watchlist of the USA, the Sheriff.

The world’s perception of us in respect of our handling of the immigrants including the refugees is important. If, by the new plan, we succeed in solving the illegal immigrants and in recruiting legal workers for our industries within the next five years or so, Malaysia would be setting an example for many countries such as Turkey and Germany. And the USA.

That would be a bonus for the new scheme.

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