KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — Some civil society groups are concerned that the appointment of Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud as secretary-general of the Ministry of Human Resources may be a poor fit.

The former Immigration Department chief’s handling of migrants was heavily criticised by migrant rights groups and now in his new role, he will be managing migrant workers.

Andy Hall, a Nepal-based activist who tracks migrant worker issues in South-east Asia, said appointing a former official who led these raids to a key decision-making position in a ministry that overlooks the recruitment of foreign workers could send the wrong signal.

“The focus by the Malaysian Cabinet therefore needs instead to be more on genuinely addressing the root causes of why these mostly vulnerable foreign workers became irregular, why they fell out of Malaysia’s legal fold,” Hall said.


“These questions often lead to answers related to and issues linked to a dysfunctional immigration and foreign worker management system. Systemic corruption, limited rule of law, impunity, no long-term, sustainable migration management policy and importantly the inability of foreign workers to change employers, even when seriously abused or stranded in destitution.”

Alex Ong, the Malaysian representative of Migrant Care, a civil society group, said: “During his leadership at the department, Malaysia was in Tier 3 of the Trafficking of Persons Report,” said Alex Ong, Malaysian representative of Migrant Care, a civil society group. “That reflected weak policies and its delivery system in immigration administration.”

Countries are ranked Tier 3 if they “do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so”.


The 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report stated that Malaysia continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes, and did not adequately address or criminally pursue credible allegations of labour trafficking, even as it took some steps to tighten and enforce anti-trafficking laws.

Kari Johnstone, acting director of the US State Department’s trafficking office at the time, said the overwhelming majority of trafficking victims in Malaysia are migrant workers.

Activists said these workers are usually victims of recruitment fraud operated by criminal syndicates pretending to be legitimate businesses, allegedly with strong political connections to the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Both these ministries oversee the migrant workers recruitment system, which activists said have been turned into a “legitimate human trafficking” multi-billion-ringgit industry by syndicates operating behind shell companies.

The Immigration Department, which collects the levy paid by foreign workers to work in Malaysia, comes under the Home Affairs Ministry.

Government leaders have vowed to crack down on these syndicates but raids, leading to the mass arrest of thousands of migrants that activists believe are victims of fraudulent recruitment agents, have continued.

Another migrant rights activist asked if Khairul Dzaimee had the expertise to lead a ministry that is tasked to develop labour policies that go beyond just migrant worker recruitment.

“It looks like a possible ‘mismatch’ of expertise — a former security official now in a position managing labour.”

Efforts to get the Minister of Human Resources Steven Sim’s comment on these concerns were unsuccessful at the time of writing.