KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — For about three years, the authorities had refrained from raiding Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion here, a migrant worker said.
The worker, who only identified himself as Abdullah, said the raids last Friday and Sunday left many migrants confused as most among them who work at mixed-commercial buildings have valid work permits.
“They usually don’t come here because this place is usually filled with shoppers, it is quite troublesome for them to conduct a raid.
“We suspect that it was because the area has already been under lockdown, so it is easier for them to round everyone up,” he told Malay Mail when met at Malayan Mansion.
The two locations were among the earliest that were put under an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) that restricted residents to their homes, ostensibly to facilitate Covid-19 active case detection.
Well taken care
This is Abdullah’s fifth year working in Malaysia, and he explained that most migrant workers working at Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion have their permits and accommodation handled by their employers and rarely faced any problems.
“We live here because our employer had already arranged for our accommodation right above our work place so that we don’t have to travel to work.
“But not all migrant workers who were arrested last week were residents or workers here.
“Some were here to meet their friends and so happened the lockdown was enforced, and these migrants who were not residents or workers here were also taken away,” he said.
Last Sunday, the Immigration Department carried out a raid on undocumented migrants at Selangor Mansion while on Friday two other raids were conducted at Menara City One and Malayan Mansion on the same day but at different times (one in the morning and the other in the evening).
All three residential-commercial buildings were still under lockdown due to a high number of Covid-19 cases.
Abdullah clarified, however, that some of the migrants were likely in the midst of rectifying issues they faced with hiring agents to obtain their work permit and visa, but to no avail.
No job security
Another migrant worker who asked to only be named as Kadeer claimed the EMCO prevented some migrants from completing their job placements that were already fraught with issues even before the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have three friends who live in Selangor Mansion and were in the midst of solving problems faced with their hiring agencies.
“They paid money to get their permit done, but they have not heard from the company until the EMCO was enforced and then the raid.
“For two months they have been jobless, and now they may have to spend six months in the detention centre,” said Kadeer when met by Malay Mail.
He explained that many of these migrants come into Malaysia with a hope to find work and earn enough to send some money home to support their families.
“I’m not sure what is going to happen to them now,” he said.
Kadeer, who came to Malaysia also to look for better opportunities, suggested that the Malaysian government help solve this problem between the migrant workers and manpower agencies.
“Some of these companies, after taking their money, they disappeared. My friend paid RM9,000 to obtain his work permit, but he never saw the work permit.
“I really do hope that the Malaysian government can try to solve this problem,” he said.
Kadeer said that unless the matter was resolved, would-be migrant workers who entered lawfully would be turned into undocumented persons overnight when they are cheated by hiring agencies that also retain their travel documents.
Migrants better than locals
Defending migrant workers here, a restaurant owner said many of their workers were hired through the United Nations (UN) refugee programme when their request for migrant worker permits was turned down.
The restaurant owner, who declined to be named, said his restaurant has functioned well for almost two decades now with the help of migrant workers.
“Sorry to say but locals just don’t make the cut and that is why many of us would rather pay the migrant workers to work at our restaurant so that we don’t need to deal with the ‘drama’ that locals present to us, on a daily basis,” the restaurant owner added.
In two instances, one in 2013 and another in 2016, the former Barisan Nasional government had decided to issue work permits for refugees and had also allowed some 300 Rohingya refugees in the country to seek employment under a pilot project planned to last over the next three years.
The then deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Rohingya refugees — who fled sectarian violence in Myanmar’s troubled western Rakhine State — would be allowed to work in the plantation and manufacturing sectors.
Previously, refugees in Malaysia were only allowed to take up odd jobs.
Refugees and asylum seekers are a gray area in Malaysia as the country is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, rendering both groups unrecognised in the eyes of the law.
No trouble with migrants
A long-time resident in Selangor Mansion said he has lived for year with migrant workers, be it documented or undocumented, and do not felt threatened by their presence.
“It’s a stereotype which stems from misjudgement.
“It is actually pretty safe here, there’s not much crime like robbery except for some fights among housemates due to disagreements, which are usually settled in under five minutes,” said the resident who wished to remain anonymous.
If anything, the resident said from his observations, many of the foreigners are very hardworking and are only seen in the evening when they return from work.
“Honestly, these foreigners are hardworking people who work in supermarkets around here like others in the construction sector.
“There are also enterprising foreigners, who are street peddlers, small time contractors and florists — all who work long hours to earn an living,” he said.
Because they are all low-wage earners who try to save as much of their earnings as possible to send back to their families, Kadeer said they are not fastidious about personal hygiene and appearances.
This makes it easy for others to judge them by how they look, he said, explaining the negative view of migrant workers among locals.
“Apart from these, the only thing we need to tolerate is cultural indifferences which include some talking loudly on the phone.
“Otherwise, they don’t directly affect us in any way,” said the resident.