Malaysia (see also Indonesia)

Malaysia-Indonesia MOU elicits various reactions

Home Affairs Minister Mohamad Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said his ministry had received many complaints from employers that the ruling in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Indonesia and Malaysia concerning Indonesian domestic workers had been ignored by both local agencies and Indonesian agents. Under the accord, the Malaysian employer pays RM2,415 to local agencies while the Indonesian domestic worker pays RM1,300 to the Indonesian agent. However, local agencies often charge more. Desperate employers pay as much as RM4,000 on behalf of the domestic worker to the Indonesian agent o top of the RM2,415-fee.


The ministry noted that an average of 1,200 foreign domestic workers runs away every month and the number is growing. It is reported that placement agencies sometimes encourage foreign domestic workers to run away from their employers in order to place them in other households. If a domestic worker disappears, an employer should pay an additional RM250-fee to cancel her work permit while a placement agency can earn a new RM2,415-fee. Given the current situation, the government is considering firm action against such agencies.


However, Malaysian Association of Foreign Housemaids Agencies (Papa) said between 80 and 85 percent of foreign domestic workers run away due to their employers’ mistreatment. Its president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan said employers should be penalized for their runaway workers, not the agents. In contrast, Association of Private Employment Agencies (Pikaps) president Datuk Abdul Baharom Ghani claimed that 99 percent of domestic workers who run away had planned their escape even before coming to Malaysia.


An average of 1,000 Indonesian domestic workers enters Malaysia each month but the number has significantly dropped recently due to low wages. Indonesian agents are also unwilling to send their workers to Malaysia or send unqualified ones because they feel that the recruitment fee set by the pact between the two countries gives them insufficient profit. Malaysia faces competition from Singapore and Hong Kong which offer better wages. Minister Radzi will have a meeting with Indonesia’s Labor Minister Erman Suparno at the end of May to discuss issues concerning migrant workers. Radzi also said the government is looking at other Asian countries such as India, China, Laos, Nepal, Vietnam, Timor Leste, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to fulfill the country’s demands for domestic workers. 

Malaysians might be required to buy insurance for their foreign domestic workers to boost their safety and security. The proposal is expected to be approved by the Cabinet after Minister Radzi’s meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Irwan Suparno. Radzi said Indonesia’s request for a pay increase for Indonesian domestic workers was still being discussed.


Meanwhile, Minister of Information Seri Zainudin Bin Maidin said Malaysia still needs Indonesian migrant workers and therefore would continue to try to improve their welfare and salary.


Proposal to hire Chinese domestic workers opposed

The proposal to bring in domestic workers from China has sparked strong opposition from women leaders in the Barisan Nasional and the Democratic Action Party (DAP). The women’s wing of the Malaysian Chinese Association, one of the country’s ruling parties, has called on the government to review the plan because it fears that Chinese domestic workers might seduce local married men, and will thus lead to the breakup of Malaysian families. Ng Yen Yen, head of the women’s wing, said her party has received many complaints from Malaysian wives saying their husbands have fallen prey to the charms of Chinese women. Ng said the party is appealing to the Home Affairs Ministry to halt the scheme for the time being. DAP leader Teresa Kok also mentioned there is distrust of Chinese women among the local Chinese community.


Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Radzi said the government was considering importing domestic workers from China and India in order to curb the shortage from Indonesia and the Philippines. He said the two countries are worth considering because many employers in Malaysia are familiar with their languages and cultures. Ivy Josiah, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organization, said foreign domestic workers are unwilling to work in Malaysia because the country has low labor standards – there are no compulsory days off, wages are low; and workers are not properly protected.


System to check migrants’ conditions proposed

The Consumers Association of Penang proposes the setting up of a checking system where migrant workers can be presented to a panel of at least two or three government officials for observation and a short interview without the employer being present. Interviews could be conducted three months after a worker’s arrival and prior to the renewal of work permits. Workers could be given information on their rights and the procedure they could take in case they are abused.


Govt agencies discuss the plight of migrant workers

Yayasan Strategik Sosial (YSS) held a discussion with various government agencies and private organizations on the plight of migrant workers to identify their problems and the reasons why they are abused by employers. YSS Datuk Dr Denison Jaya Sooria said the discussion helped build a close relationship between the police and the customs in verifying the details of arrested migrant workers and taking actions against employers in case complaints were made.


Migrants need access to health services

CARAM Asia, a Malaysian-based coalition of migrant and health groups from 15 countries said the spread of HIV/AIDS is threatening millions of migrant workers in Asia who lack sufficient access to health services. This affects not only the health of migrants and but also that of the local population. According to the group, on many cases, migrants found to be HIV-positive are deported without any help or immediate treatment.


Foreign doctors must take competency exams

Malaysia is considering requiring doctors who graduated from foreign medical schools to take a competency exam before allowing them to practice in the country. The Health Ministry  and the Malaysian Medical Council are discussing the possibility of a unified medical examination for overseas graduates.


Advice to employers before sending workers home

An employer belatedly realized that she had to fill up a form at the Immigration Department before sending her domestic worker home. She was told to pay RM250 and to lodge a police report saying her domestic worker had run away when she went to the department to fulfill her obligation. A spokesman from the Immigration Department later said that she did not need to lodge a police report. 


Bangladeshi workers face problems with immigration checks

The Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said they had undertaken extra steps to facilitate the entry of Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia. The High Commission said nearly 1,200 Bangladeshi workers come to Malaysia on different flights and oftentimes face problems in immigration checks. Immigration officials become suspicious when they find inconsistencies in the travel documents or finger prints and when recruitment agencies do not appear on time to receive the workers. 


Rela criticized for violating migrants’ human rights

The NGO Suaram said the raid operation of irregular immigrants by untrained personnel from a volunteer corps called Rela had led to rampant human rights violations and the sanctioning of a vigilante culture. Suaram said migrant and refugees continued to be the most vulnerable to rights violations and such raids have led to overcrowded detention camps and deteriorating conditions faced by migrants and refugees. The Rela taskforce has attracted criticism for abuses of power.  Among others, Human Rights Watch has called that it be disbanded immediately.


Rela arrests Indian film maker

Rela officers arrested and detained an Indian national working on a tourism film. Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said Rela should not go overboard as it can lead to problems. Tengku Adnan apologized after the Indian was detained for three hours by two members of the Rela corps. It was alleged that they thought he was a Bangladeshi irregular immigrant.


Irregular immigrants in Sabah should be deported

Patrick Cindu, the president of Sabah’s consumer association, argued that the presence of thousands of irregular immigrants in Sabah poses a security threat to locals; thus, all of them should be deported as soon as possible. Misri Barham, the director of the Sabah’s Federal Special Task Force said that the authorities in Sabah had detained some 9,558 irregular immigrants, mostly Filipinos, during the first four months of 2007. 


In related news, Senator Datuk Armani Mahiruddin proposed the federal government tighten security surveillance of Sabah waters and the country.


Four irregular immigrants plucked out from the sea

Four suspected irregular immigrants, all Bajau Palauh aged between 15 and 17, jumped into the sea to escape a police raid at Kg Tanjung Aru Lama. The police team from the Tanjung Aru station that carried out the operation then radioed the marine police for assistance. The four were plucked out from the sea soon owing to the swift response by the marine team.


4 document forgers arrested

Police have busted an illegal “mini immigration department" that used fake rubber stamps to extend the permitted length of stay for irregular migrants. Central Seberang Prai deputy OCPD Supt Mohan Singh said a police team raided a house at Taman Selamat on 18 May and detained four Myanmar nationals aged between 23 and 50.


Indian detained for failing to produce his passport

Police detained Vijay Kumar Varadan, Indian employed by Tata Consultancy Services Sdn Bhd and assigned to a project for Standard Chartered Bank, for four hours for failing to produce his original passport. Immigration enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said all foreigners were required to carry their passports at all times.


947 cases involving foreigners reported in Q1

A total of 947 cases involving foreigners were reported in the first three months of 2007. Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said Filipino and Indonesian nationals made up the most number of foreigners involved in criminal intimidation and extortion, followed by Vietnamese, Myanmars, Bangladeshis and Thais.


30 foreigners arrested for scams

Malaysian police conducted major raids and arrested more than 30 (another report cites 34) foreigners for operating Internet and other scams that seized victims across the Asia-Pacific. Some of the detainees entered the country on student visas or with UNHCR documents. Police also investigated the detainees for breaching immigration laws.


Filipino worker jailed for murder

A Malaysian court sentenced Abdul Mindan Abdul Hamsani, a 20-year-old Filipino oil palm plantation worker, to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of killing his brother-in-law, Mukin Hawari, 38, in April 2006. Mindan slashed Mukin with a parang (long knife) supposedly in self-defense and surrendered to the Semporna police afterwards.


Baby found dead, nanny missing

A14-month-old baby was found dead in his cradle by his mother Masnita Mokhtar, when she returned from work on 16 May. Aji Nor, her 27-year-old Indonesian domestic worker, who had worked at her house only for two weeks, was missing. Post-mortem results showed the baby had choked on his food and there were no signs of injuries. Masnita said the Indonesian domestic worker recently asked for Rp2 million, claiming that her father had an accident in Indonesia. She banked Rp1 million in her account.   


Thai crewmen arrested for illegal fishing

Eight crew members of a Thai trawler were held on 27 May for illegally fishing in Malaysian waters. They were handed over to the Fisheries Department for further action.


Filipino migrant workers can remit through SMS

Filipino workers can now send home money within seconds through mobile phone service messaging. Maxis Communications Berhad and the Philippine’s telecommunications company Globe Telecom launched the world’s first international mobile-to-mobile money transfer service between the two countries. The service allows customers to transfer up to P6,500 (RM500) per transaction at RM5 per transaction and 15 cents for each SMS, half the transaction fee of banks. Up to RM10,000 can be transferred per day at no charge to recipients. On receipt of an SMS confirmation, a recipient can withdraw the money through any of Globe’s GCash 6,000 outlets in the Philippines as well as rural banks, pawnshops and retail outlets and pay for things and tuition fees in some places without cashing it out.


Burmese refugees vulnerable to arrest and abuse

Burmese refugees in Malaysia continue to face abuses, arrest, detention and deportation. Malaysia has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol; therefore, the government does not distinguish between refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants. In 2004, the government agreed to issue IMM13 work permits for the Rohingya, an ethnic minority from Burma’s Northern Rakhine State. At least several thousands of refugees were registered but no permits have been issued and the Rohingya continue to be vulnerable to arrest and abuse. Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia cope with difficult living conditions and have little access to basic services like health care. The Malaysian authorities have long been harassing and intimidating Burmese refugees because many lack any type of documentation. Even those refugees who are recognized by UNHCR and carry registration documents are being arrested by RELA. UNHCR is the sole provider of protection to refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. The agency’s resources have been limited for the past several years and the agency continues to deal with processing a large backlog of cases.


Refugee issue is humanitarian: UNHCR

UNHCR Malaysia Representative Dr. Volker Turk said that closing the Filipino refugee camps in Sabah and sending them back to their country may not be a good idea. Several MPs and assemblymen in Sabah called on the government to close down the refugee camps on the grounds that they have become a colony for criminals and dadah pushers. Turk said the issue should be depoliticized and be viewed on a humanitarian basis. Turk said that many of the refugees have become part of the local community in Sabah, and this should be taken into consideration.


I-Kad to be issued to foreign students

The Ministry of Home Affairs plans to issue I-Kad (smart I-cards) that has 17 security features to the 66,580 foreign students registered in universities and colleges over the next three months. The I-Kad will replace the current student identification card. Foreign students should carry the I-Kad at all times in lieu of passports. The I-Kads, along with the online visa or e-pass and the one-stop processing center for foreign students applying to study in Malaysia, are intended to curb the abuse of student identification documents for work purposes. Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said the smart cards would also be issued soon to expatriates and foreign workers.


More Malaysian men are marrying foreigners

A growing number of Malaysian men marry foreigners with the help of several matchmaking agencies. Women, Family and Community Development Ministry parliamentary secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said these marriages encounter various problems due to cultural differences, misunderstandings and cheating. 


20 Malaysians fall victims of illegal recruitment every month

Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn said at least 20 Malaysian workers fall victims to abuse and fraud committed by recruitment agents every month. Recruiting agents promising the workers good jobs with good pay take away workers’ passports and other documents. When those who find out that either there is no job or the job is not what is promised decide to quit, the agents ask them to pay RM2,000 before returning their documents. 


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