The Malaysian Employers Federation has called for a review of the plan by the Immigration Department to freeze the assets and bank accounts of industry employers who hire and harbour illegal foreign workers.
MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said executing the plan, in October as announced, would result in Malaysian and legal foreign workers to lose their jobs.
“If a company’s assets are frozen, it will have a significant impact on other employees as well. The employer will be unable to carry on the business and will have to lay off all employees,” he said.
Shamsuddin was commenting on the announcement by Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali two days ago that the department would enforce a provision under Section 56(1) of the Immigration Act in October to freeze assets and bank accounts of employers hiring and harbouring illegal foreign workers.
Mustafar had said the department was giving employers until the end of September to legalise illegal workers by getting for them their travel documents, visas and permits.
Shamsuddin argued that the Immigration Act did not have any provision allowing the authorities to freeze the assets of employers who hired or harboured illegal immigrants.
He said Section 56(1) provided for a fine of up to RM10,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to five years.
“For the offence of harbouring up to five illegal immigrants, the employer will be liable to a fine of not less than RM10,000 and not more than RM50,000 for harbouring each illegal immigrant and imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but not exceeding five years, and also whipping of not more than six strokes” he said.
He said there was a provision on penalty for those who abet or are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit any offence under the Act.
“I’m not sure which provision states the freezing of assets. I think there is no such provision under Section 56(1),” he said.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Yong Poh Kon, who concurred with Shamsuddin, suggested that the government relook the proposal comprehensively to avoid any long-term implications for the industry and other workers.
“Whilst it is understandable that the illegal worker situation needs to be addressed, it’s only fair that industry must not be overly restricted in sourcing for legal workers to meet its needs,” he said.
Yong said the government should review the programme to legalise illegal workers if it was serious about reducing the number of illegal workers in the country.
“Rules and procedure for hiring and work permit extension should be eased and simplified. The programme to legalise illegal workers has not been successful due to its stringent and costly procedures,” he added.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress acting president Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid expressed support for the measures to be implemented by the Immigration Department, describing them as appropriate.
He said such action would help the Immigration Department to regulate illegal immigrants in the country more efficiently.
“This is appropriate to protect the local workers and to give them the opportunity to secure those jobs which are currently monopolised by illegal immigrants,” he said.
Abdullah Sani said the MTUC welcomed the legal action against employers and said it would make employers realise the need to employ workers legally.