Monday, January 31, 2005

Immigration Department proposes tough measure to deter hiring of illegal workers

Excerpt from Star

BY CECIL FUNG

PETALING JAYA: Employers who engage more than five illegal foreign workers may find themselves languishing in jail until their cases are disposed of.

The Immigration Department says it wants the police and courts to refuse bail to errant employers because the offence is a serious one.

Department enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said the move was being considered for those arrested after the amnesty period for illegal immigrants ends at midnight tonight.

“The offence is a serious one, where the employers face a penalty of mandatory jail and whipping so we want them to be denied bail,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said the department would seek the cooperation of the police and courts on this matter as weeding out illegals was among the nation’s priorities.

Employers have until tonight to send their illegal workers back to their home countries.

Otherwise, they risk being arrested by the biggest raiding team mobilised to hunt down illegals in the country, comprising 500,000 officers from the Immigration Department, the police, Rela and Rukun Tetangga.

From tomorrow, door-to-door raids will be conducted at factories, plantations, construction sites, restaurants and homes to weed out illegals. Employers who are arrested will be detained in police lockups while the illegals will be held in 13 detention centres nationwide which can hold up to 16,000 inmates.

Ishak said even those who surrender themselves after the deadline would be arrested because they are considered illegals once the amnesty has ended.

“After we arrest them, we will submit our investigation reports to the Deputy Public Prosecutor who will decide whether to charge them or not.

“But as far as we are concerned, they have been given enough time during the amnesty period which was extended twice,” said Ishak.

Asked if the detention centres would be able to accommodate all the illegals rounded up, he said raids under the operation – set to go on indefinitely – would be scheduled accordingly.

“We will go all out to nab those who are still in the country until the situation forces us to slow down. If necessary, we will also look for other locations to serve as detention centres,” he said.

Ishak advised employers not to hire illegals and urged them to give their fullest cooperation if officers raided their premises.

“Please get all your workers’ documents ready and tell them to be calm during the raids.

“If you are not at your premises, please leave phone numbers where you can be contacted anytime to present the documents,” he said.

Unlike last month, Ishak said the number of illegals leaving the country did not experience a sudden surge towards the end of the amnesty period this time.

“So far, even today’s (Sunday) figures have not shown any major increase. This could be because of rumours of another extension but as far as I know, there is no such announcement,” he said.

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