PETALING JAYA, July 2 — Nineteen employers of more than 1,000 undocumented workers in various industries were nabbed on the first day of the Immigration Department’s crackdown after the expiry of the “enforcement card” (E-Kad) application period on Friday.
It quickly became evident after the swoop commenced that many of the undocumented workers were either unaware of the rehiring programme or had trusted their employers to apply for the E-Kad for them.
For some of these workers, their employers had committed the ultimate betrayal as they had squandered the opportunity for them to work in Malaysia legally after facing insurmountable hardships to enter the country just to toil away in some of the harshest conditions.
These workers will now be held in detention centres for an undetermined period until they are deported.
Selangor Immigration director Omran Omar told reporters irresponsible employers were a target of the nationwide crackdown.
“We want to weed out employers who fail to register illegal workers. They cannot ignore their migrant workers,” he said.
Immigration Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali also took employers to task after the programme failed to reach its goal of registering some 600,000 illegal workers in the country.
He said only about 23 per cent of illegal foreign workers were registered before the deadline at midnight on Friday.
The percentage involved 28,375 employers with 145,571 E-kad issued.
“The programme was not successful because of the employers’ stubbornness to register,” he said before the nationwide crackdown on undocumented workers started just after the deadline expired.
Mustafar told reporters yesterday morning that among the reasons employers failed to register their workers was their assumption the deadline would be extended.
He said the department was flooded with thousands of applications in the three final days despite the employers being given four months to apply.
“We gave them constant reminders but most of the employers remained stubborn. Do not blame the department,” he said.
Mustafar said employers would be held accountable because of their failure to register their workers.
“They left it to the last minute. They were given ample time and now, we mean business as the deadline has passed,,” he said.
“It may sound harsh, but this is the way it has to be to guard the welfare and security of our country.”
He said employers would be charged under the Immigration Act 1959/1963, where they could face a fine of up to RM10,000 per illegal immigrant and serve jail time of up to five years.
Action would also be taken if they had employed foreigners who entered the country on student visas.
The department could take action against the employers under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA) where their assets would be frozen for investigations.
Mustafar applauded employers who had applied for the E-kad in time.
“During the operations, some of them had valid E-kad while some were still having their E-kad processed. So, congratulations to the employers who have taken it seriously to ensure their workers are valid,” he said.
“Foreigners are allowed to work here but they must enter here via legal means and follow our law. We will take action everyday to ensure our country is clean of illegal immigrants.”
While he held employers accountable, Mustafar also believed the foreigners themselves should not claim ignorance.
“We informed their embassies to relay the message to them and it began four months ago,” he said.
In the crackdown yesterday, 1,037 undocumented foreigners nationwide were arrested.
The highest number rounded up was in Johor with 414 detained, followed by Kelantan (147) and Sabah (135).
A majority of those arrested were Bangladeshis (491), Indonesians (136) and Myanmar nationals (96).
Others picked up also included Philippines, Thailand and Vietnamese nationals.
They failed to produce valid documents, while some had overstayed their visas.
Mustafar said they would be processed and locked up in detention centres until deportation arrangements were made.
“They will placed in detentions centres which are available nationwide until they can be deported. The process may vary depending on the person,” he said.
“It will be faster for those who contact their families to help arrange their deportation home. Their respective embassies are also responsible to arrange such matters.”