Friday, January 15, 2010

Workers, not victims of trafficking

Do they know what is trafficking? Are these workers smuggled into the country or brought in against their will by human traffickers? Let us not treat undocumented migrants as trafficked victims. Just because the US is talking about 'human trafficking', let not Malaysia to please the US also start calling everything 'trafficking'.

Undocumented migrants are generally not victims of human trafficking, and certainly employers of these workers should not be facing the risk of being charged under the Anti-Trafficking laws.

The government must study the reasons why there exists undocumented migrants, and why people are employing these migrants - and the solution may be is not arrest, whipping, detention and deportation. Maybe, the government should consider giving work permits to undocumented migrants, placing the obligation of informing and registering these workers on their employers. This, I believe is a better solution.

Tougher penalties for hiring illegals


Farrah Naz Karim

Human trafficking law to be used from February 15.

PUTRAJAYA: There will be no second chance for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Come Feb 15, the authorities will throw the book at errant employers by also charging them under the the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (ATPA).

Currently, errant employers only face charges under the Immigration Act, which would see them being fined RM5,000 for each illegal worker. They also face whipping for harbouring illegals.

Errant employers will now face longer jail sentences and heavier fines when they are also charged under the ATPA.

Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman said harbouring or hiring illegal immigrants could be linked to offences under the APTA which include exploitation, debt bondage and slavery.

“These drastic measures are needed to curb the number of overstayers in the country.”

The department is now giving errant employers, including multinational companies, till Feb 15 to clean up their act, after which there will be no second chance.

He said during this period, the department would try to educate employers through associations, industries as well as fliers on the penalty for hiring or harbouring illegals.

“After that, we will go after them aggressively. They should come forward now because when we get them, charge them and push for maximum penalties, they cannot feign ignorance of the law," he said in an interview yesterday.

"Even if they come forward now and surrender their illegal workers, they would still have to face the law. They may get leniency from the department or from the court."

But there would be no leniency after Feb 15 as the chief justice, in a recent meeting with the department, had told prosecuting officers to push for the maximum sentence in each case, he said.

"We were told not to ask the court to use their discretion when sentencing those caught for hiring or harbouring illegals."

Rahman was responding to the issue of nearly 40,000 Indian citizens missing from Immigration records, stated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to visiting Indian journalists on Tuesday.

Rahman said the department could not give the exact number of foreigners who were overstaying here as many could have left Malaysia through illegal channels.

He said operations to weed out illegal immigrants would also focus on those who came into the country on student passes.

Last month alone saw 6,261 student passes issued in Peninsular Malaysia, with 1,014 granted to those from China (see table A). Last year, Sabah issued 150 student passes while Sarawak issued 8,306.

Rahman said many had abused the RM60-a-year pass to avoid heavier levies. Those who work in the service sector pay RM1,800 a year.

The department last year arrested 46,900 foreigners and locals for Immigration offences while 73 employers were charged with hiring illegals. More than 30 employers were also arrested for harbouring illegals.

Rahman said the country was also losing significantly in cash outflow where reports in 2006 revealed that US$2.7 billion (RM9.18 billion) was channelled out to Indonesia alone.

He said the current maximum fine of RM3,000 for overstaying, was not enough of a deterrent.

"Take a person working in the illicit flesh trade who makes RM300 a day and overstays for 60 days. They would have earned RM18,000. After being fined that amount, they would still return home with RM15,000."

Rahman said the department was expected to ensure tourists' arrivals were not impeded by strict enforcement at entry points.

He, however, revealed that the department had last year imposed the "Not Permitted to Land" ruling on 25,084 foreign individuals (refer to table B). - New Straits Times, 14/1/2010

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