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Illegal migrants a time bomb waiting to explode

  • The consequences will be unthinkable if the government fails to see it as a national crisis that warrants a comprehensive set of urgent solutions. Photo courtesy: Bernama

By POOK AH LEK
Sin Chew Daily

Many people living in Kuala Lumpur are not locals, and the city will become an instant ghost town during the festive seasons, with very few people walking in the city streets and fewer cars plying on its roads.

However, in more recent years, when Malaysians leave the city to celebrate the festive holidays back in their hometowns, tens of thousands of migrant workers begin to flock into the city center, “occupying” the big and small streets and dozens of malls in town.

You will not miss the sight of foreign workers whichever way you look -- hundreds of them at least -- if you happen to visit the KLCC Park on any given Sunday, and their number seems to be swelling in recent years. The uninitiated can be forgiven for thinking that they are in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

No one can tell for sure how many legal and illegal migrant workers we have in total. The government does not provide a specific figure except some rough estimates, and this is what really alarms us. When Tun Mahathir repeated his call for the Malays to work hard recently, he came out with a new estimate: seven million.

He said the Malays were willing to give all the jobs to the seven million foreigners here, and that these foreigners had “flooded” Malaysia!

The Statistics Department's latest report shows that the total population of Malaysia is 32.6 million, of whom 29.4 million are citizens and 3.2 million non-citizens. As the prime minister has said there are seven million foreign workers here, it means there are as many as 3.8 million undocumented foreign workers and migrants.

This revelation is real shocking. In other words, foreigners have become the second largest community in this country after the Malays/bumiputras. Chinese is now the third largest ethnic community at 23% while the Indians, at only 6.9%, is reduced to an insignificant minority here.

Imagine we have seven million foreigners walking in our midst, some have come in legally but many have entered the country illegally or have overstayed their visas to become illegal now. Many have also set up their families here, and are enjoying subsidized medical services at our public hospitals, and free education offered to their children, all financed by Malaysian taxpayers!

Social issues aside, these illegal migrants are also posing real threats to national security. An overwhelming majority of them are Muslims, and police raids have revealed that quite a number of foreign terrorists have infiltrated the group, waiting for the right timing to launch their attacks on government leaders and places frequented by non-Muslims.

The presence of excessively large migrant worker population in this country has also impacted our economy as a result of massive remittance outflows. Bank Negara statistics showed that foreign workers remitted up to US$420 billion or RM1.8 trillion out of this country between 2007 and June 2017.

The issue of migrant workers appears to have gone out of hand. During the past 20 years, the home ministry and immigration department have launched countless of operations to round up illegal foreign workers with little success. Some 867,336 illegal foreign workers were deported between 2014 and August 2018, but many more have gone undetected across the country.

IGP Abdul Hamid Bador put it forthright that corruption and abuse of power in police, military, immigration department and other enforcement units were to be blamed for the uncontrollable problem of illegal foreign workers. Although the penalties meted out under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 are heavy, some security personnel at border posts have opted to collude with outsiders to sneak in the illegals at the temptation of money.

Another reason is our long, porous coastline. Even though illegal migrants are caught and deported, they will soon make their way back here, especially those from Indonesia and the Philippines.

In conjunction with the #KitalahMalaysia event jointly organized by Sin Chew Daily and Sinar Harian, Abdul Hamid said in a live interview that abuse of visa-on-arrival policy, overstaying by foreigners, UNHCR's generous issuance of refugee permits to Rohingyas from Myanmar, and the refusal of tens of thousands of unemployed foreigners to leave the country after their factories have been closed down, were additional reasons why the government's operations had not produced the desired results.

Moreover, many Filipinos who fought Ferdinand Marcos during the early years and fled to Sabah, opted to settle and set up their families here. Hardly speaking any Tagalog, these people only speak the local Sabah dialects and are not recognized as citizens by the Philippine authorities. These illegal migrants have become a huge liability to the Malaysian government.

While foreign workers have contributed remarkably to the country's economic development and indeed we cannot go without them in a short time, it is equally important for us to cut down our reliance on migrant workers and bring in only legal workers as per the requirements.

The illegal migrant issue is like a time bomb that will go off any time. Where this is concerned, both the previous BN and today's PH administrations have been equally clueless in fixing the problem. The consequences will be unthinkable if the government fails to see it as a national crisis that warrants a comprehensive set of urgent solutions.

 

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