Cambodian workers in fear of arrest and deportation in Malaysia

  • Contruction workers work on a contruction project near the Malaysian landmarks Petronas Twin Tower and KL Tower in downtown Kuala Lumpur, 06 June 2006. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said he is committed to making Malaysia a developed nation by 2020 despite doubts the goal is achievable. AFP PHOTO/TEH ENG KOON / AFP PHOTO / TEH ENG KOON

Cambodian migrant workers are living in fear of arrest and deportation in light of the ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia, according to a report in the Phnom Penh Post Online on Friday (July 7).

About 2,000 migrants have been arrested since the beginning of June under the so-called “rehiring programme” introduced by the Malaysian government on February 15 to accelerate the process of getting undocumented workers legal status which allows employers to register their employees for an upfront payment of $140 with additional fees later on.

The Migrants Refugees and Immigration Committee of the Bar Council of Malaysia said many employers failed to do so before the programme ended June 30.  The committee chairperson Sri M Ramachelvam said migrant workers should not be victimized for the failure of their employers to legalise them.

Over a million undocumented migrants work in Malaysia and just 161,000 of them have registered before the deadline.

Despite efforts to ease the legalization process, Soma Sundram, an education officer of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, pointed out at a stipulation that says if a worker flees an employer, even in cases of abuse, he/she cannot be registered as a legal migrant worker.

On top of that, migrants face up to $800 in passport renewal fees in Malaysia.