KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Several trade groups have reportedly urged Putrajaya to reconsider the suspension of the foreign worker hiring quota in light of the Migrant Repatriation Programme that would be effective on March 1.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan was quoted by The Star saying that due to the extended stay of certain workers in the country, the rising foreign worker levy has become a financial challenge for employers.

“It is a good move by the government to collect compounds from the workers and send them off rather than detain them in immigration camps,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the amnesty programme provides an opportunity for these workers to go back to their home countries.

He further emphasised the necessity for the government to streamline the hiring process for new foreign workers.

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On the other hand, SME Association of Malaysia president Ding Hong Sing said the repatriation programme provides a more cost-effective method for assisting undocumented workers in returning home.

“But the impact for some employers is that they may face a shortage of workers,” he was quoted as saying.

He also said that small and medium enterprises in the plantation and manufacturing sectors might be affected.

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Meanwhile, Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri Low Kian Chuan said he supports the repatriation programme, even for individuals who have committed immigration offences.

“Various programmes have been introduced previously by the government to legalise undocumented foreign workers. However, we understand that there is a situation of imbalance in the supply of foreign workers in various economic sectors.

“A certain leniency must be given and a case-by-case application review must be allowed for those critical economic sectors,” Low was quoted as saying.

Also weighing on the same matter, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nivas Ragavan said that the recruitment of foreign workers should align with industry requirements.

He suggested the opening of the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System to all industries for enhanced due diligence in the recruitment process.

“As the approval comes from authorities, this would also prevent employers and unscrupulous agents from capitalising on loopholes to bring in foreign workers and then exploit them,” he was quoted as saying.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said they believe the government’s decision to launch the repatriation programme is crucial to address the country’s worrying issue of undocumented foreign workers, considering it a matter of national concern.

“It must be tackled in a comprehensive, effective and transparent manner,” Soh was quoted as saying by the news outlet.

Soh then went on to say that the primary cause of the surge in illegal foreign workers was the past practice of outsourcing companies or agents bringing them in as outsourced workers rather than direct employees for industries.

He said many workers arrived with promises of employment through this method but were ultimately left without proper work.

While the manufacturing sector respects the Cabinet’s decision to uphold the freeze on applications, Soh said employers in the sector may genuinely need workers to fulfil their orders.

“The government should consider these applications and approval on a needs basis” he was quoted as saying.

It was reported that the repatriation programme permits the return of illegal foreigners after they have resolved fines for diverse immigration offences, such as overstaying and entering Malaysia without valid documents.