Malaysian police on Wednesday night detained at least 80 Bangladeshi migrant workers allegedly working illegally in Kampung Raja area in the country’s Pahang state.
The Bangladeshis, believed to be working at a construction site in Cameron Highlands, were picked-up during two separate raids in Tringkap and Blue Valley of Kampung Raja, reported Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama.
Sayedul Islam, counsellor (Labour wing) at Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday told The Daily Star over phone that they might have been detained for working illegally.
“Although we didn’t receive any official statement regarding the arrest of the Bangladeshi citizens, we have information that the Malaysian police have recently launched a crackdown to detain illegal foreigners in Cameron Highlands,” he said.
Replying to a query about the status of the Bangladeshis in other parts of Malaysia, Sayedul Islam said there did not seem to be any problems right now. Cameron Highlands district police chief DSP Wan Mohd Zahari Wan Busu said preliminary investigation revealed that the detained workers were working without valid permits.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday agents bringing foreign workers illegally into the country should be sentenced to mandatory caning for the offence.
He said he suggested this because imposing fines on agents did not seem very effective in deterring them from committing the offence again.
“This is also in view of the large number of illegal foreign workers flooding the country. I hope this proposal will be considered and supported by MPs from both sides of the divide,” he said during question time in the parliament.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ahmed Zahid said he wanted local employers to hire foreign workers directly and not use agents in order to avoid being cheated by unscrupulous parties.
“After receiving payment from employers, some agents don’t pay the levy for the permits for recruited foreign workers,” he observed.
“This is what makes a legal foreign worker ‘illegal’ in the country, and also why those with expired employment periods become illegal,” he said, adding that foreign workers were also smuggled in, causing a “bigger” problem for the ministry.
On the influx of illegal foreign workers into Cameron Highlands, Zahid issued a stern warning to employers not to hire foreigners with United Nations High Commission for Refugees cards.
“They cannot work here… even though there is demand for them to work in certain sectors,” he added.
However, Malaysian Chinese Association president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said not all foreign workers were illegal and the Immigration Department should be diligent when checking their documents and backgrounds.
“There must be a standard operating procedure. Not all foreign workers should be detained because they may not have valid permits,” he told local journalists following the crackdown on illegal immigrants at Cameron Highlands.
Source: The Daily Star