Large scale plan to legalise illegals
Hishammuddin confirms a comprehensive amnesty programme that will be ready by the end of the month
He said the system required to identify and process the illegals would be functional by the end of the month and the programme, codenamed 6P, would span three weeks. The six Ps refer to the Malay words for “registration, legalisation, amnesty, supervision, enforcement, deportation”.
The estimated number of illegal immigrants in Malaysia is two million, but Hishammuddin said the programme would also involve legal immigrants.
“As a package, what we hope to do is identify illegals and those who are legal but also from abroad.”
Speaking at the launch of the Dang Wangi district police headquarters here, he said the purpose of the programme was not to give citizenship to the immigrants but to ensure that their skills were “channeled in the right directions” and that they were not “abused by human traffickers”.
He said the programme would use a biometric system to identify the immigrants and the registration process would include decisions on whether an immigrant was needed by industry and how long he should stay.
The Star today quoted a Home Ministry official as saying that illegal immigrants would have three weeks to take up the amnesty offer or face the consequences if caught without work permits or passports.
Is amnesty a money-making scheme?
Three weeks is simply too short to sort out the two million illegal immigrants if the government goes ahead with its proposed amnesty plan.
They also said that outsouring the procedure (to legalise the immigrants) to private companies could be open to abuse.
They cautioned that the move to appoint agents and companies to act as middle men may lead to exploitation of charges which the illegal workers would have to pay when applying for amnesty.
They said this “glitch” in the form of middle men must be addressed.
Explaining the “glitch”, Migrant Care Malaysia director, Alex Ong, said: “It is a proposed monitoring and control system, but it does not address one of the major issues that illegal immigrants faced – the hidden costs charged by middle men.”
“They label it as ‘primer charges’ to be made to agents or out-sourced companies. Those who want to go back to their country would usually be charged RM400 by the government,” he said.
“But there are out-sourced companies that manage this procedure which widely exploit the illegal immigrants.
“We have found rampant cases where instead of paying RM400, through various brokers and middle men, we have seen the price go up to RM1,800.”
’6P’ already in place
Ong was responding to a report in The Star that the government is planning an amnesty drive to legalise almost two million illegal immigrant workers.
The paper also reported that a formal announcement on the plan is expected on Thursday.
The programme, codenamed “6P” for pendaftaran (registration), pemutihan (legalisation), pengampunan (amnesty), pemantauan (supervision), penguakuatsaan (enforcement) and pengusiran (deportation), is to be enforced over three weeks.
It is also reported that the government will appoint several companies to help out with the exercise.
The government, however, has not finalised the companies as the application period is still open.
Ong said that the “6P” programme was merely a “technical procedure” as the six elements were already in place on the ground.
Based on his 12 years of experience in dealing with illegal immigrants, he said there are two categories in which illegal immigrants in Malaysia come under: the ones who want to go back for good; and the ones who wish to stay back and work.
He said that the middle-men problem exists in both categories.
“When there is a large-scale programme such as this, then it makes it easier for companies and agents to continue exploiting immigrant workers and make money out of them,” he added.
Too short a time
Another NGO, Tenaganita, echoed the same concern.
Programme Coordinator, Aegile Fernandez, said they had encountered many previous cases where the charges paid were much more than the fixed ceiling price.
“Who are the companies registering these illegals, and what rates will they charge?
“From our previous experience, the fees will always differ from the set rates.
“If one wants to hasten their registration, they will have to pay extra to their agents,” she told FMT.
Fernandez also said that the proposed three-week period was too short.
She recalled a major amnesty programme conducted in 1997-1998 over three months.
Even then Tenaganita, she added, had encountered many glitches because the amnesty period was short.
“I remember the last time we tried to help the immigrants. The flight tickets were fully booked and they were charged for over-staying. We had to contact the source country to arrange for more flights,” she said.
She also said that it took time for illegal immigrants to make financial arrangements to pay for the amnesty charges.
“Can they afford to produce this kind of money in three weeks?
“In 1997-1998, when the amnesty was for three months, we had cases where the immigrants waited till end of month to get the salary to pay the amnesty charges.
“Some who wanted to go back for good did not have the money for an air ticket. They had to ask the family back home to get back to them. That took time. Time and space is need; three weeks is just too short,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council’s human rights committee chairman Andrew Khoo warned that the proposed large-scheme amnesty programme smelt fishy.
“It could be just another large money-making scheme sanctioned by the government.
“Out-sourcing companies dealing with illegal immigrants do not have a good track record.
“It is reported that the money will be paid to the outsourcing companies to process these applications.
“We have grave reservation about their involvement because there have been allegations of abuse, misuse of quotas of immigrant workers to companies and the lack of respect for human rights,” he said.