KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — An Indonesian agency is planning to repatriate an estimated 1.8 million of its citizens who are believed to be working illegally in several countries abroad, with a majority of them in Malaysia.
Nusron Wahid, who heads Indonesia’s migrant worker protection agency, said that several ministries will be roped in to aid the process.
“There will be a discussion on bringing back 1.8 million illegal migrant workers who do not have a work contract, and we will use the state budget to do it,” the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI)’s head was quoted saying in a report today by Jakarta Globe.
According to Nusron, 1.8 million of the 6.2 million Indonesians who are working abroad do not hold work permits, with the vast majority of the group mostly based in Malaysia as construction or plantation workers, while the remaining undocumented workers are in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and the Middle East.
But a potential obstacle to the process may lie in the uncertainty surrounding the actual number of undocumented Indonesian workers abroad, with Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi saying yesterday that accurate figures were needed for a repatriation exercise.
Although Nusron puts the number of Indonesians without work permits in Malaysia as 1.2 million, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s director-general of Indonesian citizens’ protection Tatang Razak said there were only 300,000 of them at risk of being deported from Malaysia, Jakarta Globe reported.
Recently, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that mandatory caning for agents who bring in illegal foreign workers is more effective than fines, also saying earlier this month that immigration officers and personnel in cahoots with them should be caned.
Commenting on concerns that workers without work permits could also be subjected to caning, Tatang reportedly said the same punishment should be meted out on the local employers who sought for foreign workers.
“The Malaysian authorities should also take action against the users rather than just punish and deport the workers,” he was quoted saying.
Under Malaysia’s Immigration Department’s “3+1” programme, foreigners who are in the country illegally will be allowed to return to their home country with only a penalty of RM300 imposed.
“All they have to do is to surrender to any of our offices and with their passports, outbound tickets and pay RM300 compound and RM100 for the special pass and they can go home,” the department’s director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim said last month.
Local employers of foreigners in Malaysia without valid passes have been told to voluntarily surrender their employees under the same amnesty programme, which will end on December 31.