KUALA LUMPUR: Experts are calling for more enforcement measures against undocumented immigrants, especially in hotspot areas.
This, they said, should go beyond rounding up immigrants by also ensuring that employers were not complicit in putting them on their payroll.
Lawyer and former Immigration Department officer C.R. Selva Chinniah said the presence of authorities on the streets would ensure that issues regarding undocumented immigrants were kept in check and would dissuade employers from hiring them.
He said this on the New Straits Times talk show “Beyond the Headlines“.
Selva Chinniah said: “The presence of authorities on the streets with the notion of inspecting undocumented immigrants would educate people and address the elephant in the room: enforcement.
“We should assimilate the word ‘raid’ into inspections, whereby we need to do them regularly.”
Selva said this would go hand in hand with legislation on the use of undocumented immigrants as workers.
“There is nothing wrong with our laws. We have perfect legislation in place. But enforcement needs to clean up its act.”
He said there were too many agencies involved in enforcement, but they lacked coordination.
“We have the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Council, Immigration Department, police, Human Resources Ministry, Home Ministry, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and others.
“It’s excellent that we have them all, but they need to speak the same language. They must be able to handle enforcement together.”
Also appearing on the show, criminologist and senior lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Health Sciences Associate Professor Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat echoed Selva’s opinion that a proactive approach was needed in enforcement.
“Ministries would come and hold meetings where they combine all these agencies.”
“This, on top of the laws that we have, is good.”
“However, when it comes to enforcement, they would always say to wait until the next meeting (to execute).”
This, Geshina added, would allow undocumented immigrants to be exploited by their employers.
She said the authorities should not punish undocumented immigrants as they were at the receiving end of the trafficking cycle.
“When we see them in the streets, we see the authorities checking their identification to determine if they are legal.
“We are saying we are a melting pot of cultures, that we are tolerant of people.
Geshina Ayu said: “Yet on the other hand, when these people want to come in, but because of perhaps documentation, or perhaps they don’t have enough knowledge about how to go about it, they come in illegally and we punish them.”
The third guest sitting in the show, North-South Initiative co-founder and executive director Adrian Pereira, said raiding hotspots might lead to a disproportionate rate of prosecution of immigrants compared with their employers.
“When raids are conducted, they are conducted at ungodly hours. When I asked enforcement officers, ‘ where are their employers’, and ‘who are owners of these premises’, they said that they caught only the workers.”
Pereira said this was an issue that needed rectifying.
“Something is wrong. So we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to look at enforcement in a holistic manner.”