28th January 2024 – Ex-Immigration DG’s appointment to Ministry of Human Resources a poor fit, say migrant rights activists, as crackdown on irregular foreign workers intensifies in Malaysia (includes my full statement)
Some civil society groups are concerned that the appointment of Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud as secretary-general of the Ministry of Human Resources may be a poor fit as a crackdown on irregular foreign workers increases in Malaysia.
Original article at: malaymail by Syed Jaymal Zahiid – 28th January 2024
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — Some civil society groups are concerned that the appointment of Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud as secretary-general of the Ministry of Human Resources may be a poor fit.
The former Immigration Department chief’s handling of migrants was heavily criticised by migrant rights groups and now in his new role, he will be managing migrant workers.
Andy Hall, a Nepal-based activist who tracks migrant worker issues in South-east Asia, said appointing a former official who led these raids to a key decision-making position in a ministry that overlooks the recruitment of foreign workers could send the wrong signal.
“The focus by the Malaysian Cabinet therefore needs instead to be more on genuinely addressing the root causes of why these mostly vulnerable foreign workers became irregular, why they fell out of Malaysia’s legal fold,” Hall said.
“These questions often lead to answers related to and issues linked to a dysfunctional immigration and foreign worker management system. Systemic corruption, limited rule of law, impunity, no long-term, sustainable migration management policy and importantly the inability of foreign workers to change employers, even when seriously abused or stranded in destitution.” (Article continues below CNA news post)
Malaysian authorities stepping up campaigns to flush undocumented migrants as it recalibrates its system to better regulate foreign workers intake & management. Migrant rights activists say the system is dysfunctional, plagued by corruption & in need of an overhaul.
Malaysia is ramping up efforts to crack down on undocumented migrants, as the government deliberates an action plan to curb the illegal hiring of foreign workers. In the first week of January alone, about 200 immigration raids were carried out in the capital Kuala Lumpur with hundreds, including their employers, detained. CNA’s Melissa Goh with this report.
Channel News Asia – Around 200 immigration raids conducted in Malaysian capital in first week of 2024 | Video – HERE
(Article continues from above CNA news post)
Alex Ong, the Malaysian representative of Migrant Care, a civil society group, said: “During his leadership at the department, Malaysia was in Tier 3 of the Trafficking of Persons Report,” said Alex Ong, Malaysian representative of Migrant Care, a civil society group. “That reflected weak policies and its delivery system in immigration administration.”
Countries are ranked Tier 3 if they “do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so”.
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report stated that Malaysia continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes, and did not adequately address or criminally pursue credible allegations of labour trafficking, even as it took some steps to tighten and enforce anti-trafficking laws.
Kari Johnstone, acting director of the US State Department’s trafficking office at the time, said the overwhelming majority of trafficking victims in Malaysia are migrant workers.
Activists said these workers are usually victims of recruitment fraud operated by criminal syndicates pretending to be legitimate businesses, allegedly with strong political connections to the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Both these ministries oversee the migrant workers recruitment system, which activists said have been turned into a “legitimate human trafficking” multi-billion-ringgit industry by syndicates operating behind shell companies.
The Immigration Department, which collects the levy paid by foreign workers to work in Malaysia, comes under the Home Affairs Ministry.
Government leaders have vowed to crack down on these syndicates but raids, leading to the mass arrest of thousands of migrants that activists believe are victims of fraudulent recruitment agents, have continued.
Another migrant rights activist asked if Khairul Dzaimee had the expertise to lead a ministry that is tasked to develop labour policies that go beyond just migrant worker recruitment.
“It looks like a possible ‘mismatch’ of expertise — a former security official now in a position managing labour.”
Efforts to get the Minister of Human Resources Steven Sim’s comment on these concerns were unsuccessful at the time of writing.
Background on Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud:
August 22nd 2020 Reuters – Malaysia deports Bangladeshi man who criticised treatment of migrants in documentary
7th Feb 2023 FMT – Immigration DG defends raid on illegal settlement in Nilai
Andy Hall’s full statement on Malaysia’s ongoing crackdown on irregular migrant workers, as requested by various local media (Andy Hall, 24th Jan 2024)
“Symbolic or politically motivated law enforcement efforts to crack down on irregular foreign workers are not what is needed at this time to actually revamp and reform Malaysia’s failing management of these foreign workers for the better. The reality is that almost all of the irregular foreign workers being arrested at this time in showcase raids across the country entered into Malaysia utilising legal channels and were not smuggled irregularly into the country. For the most part, they are not dangerous or law breaking criminals. The focus by the Malaysian Cabinet therefore needs instead to be more on genuinely addressing the route causes of why these mostly vulnerable foreign workers became irregular, why they fell out of Malaysia’s legal fold. These questions often lead to answers related to and issues linked to a dysfunctional immigration and foreign worker management system. Systemic corruption, limited rule of law, impunity, no long term, sustainable migration management policy, and importantly the inability of foreign workers to change employers, even when seriously abused or stranded in destitution. Arresting, detaining, extorting and then simply releasing (as opposed deporting) irregular foreign workers, as a political or symbolic showcase to distract or change the narrative from high ranking law enforcement officials essentially feeling the heat, given the continual exposing of their abuse and their syndicates, will not constructively assist anything at this time of absolute impunity and chaos in Malaysia’s management of foreign workers. The corrupt system of impunity and limited rule of law is the problem here, not the mostly vulnerable foreign workers.“
See also: 26th Jan 2024: ATLEU – UK government fails to protect workers from trafficking and exploitation
See also: 26th Jan 2024: ATLEU – Challenge to government’s Seasonal Worker Scheme
See also: 25th Jan 2024 Home Office: UK government survey on experiences of seasonal workers scheme confirms the exceptionally high levels of issues (confusion, fees etc) faced by Indonesian and Nepali workers in 2021/2022
See also: 24th Jan 2024: ATLEU – Seasonal worker recognised as a potential victim of trafficking
See also: 12th Jan 2024 TBIJ: UK government ‘breaching international law’ with seasonal worker scheme, says UN envoy