By AZREEN HANI
The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has told its members to stop employing illegal foreign workers immediately if they do not comply with the government E-card registration scheme for such workers by July 1.
As of June 16, only about 131,269 unregistered foreign workers have applied for the E-card — much lower than the 400,000 anticipated by the Immigration Department.
ED Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan told The Malaysian Reserve that the reasons for low participation among employers are due to inconsistent policies and that it does not warrant an approval for rehiring.
“Employers are apprehensive as the E-card is not a guarantee for approval for rehiring. That’s why employers hiring illegal foreign workers are advised to discontinue employing them immediately as the penalty, if caught, can be very severe,” Shamsuddin said in a text message reply yesterday.
Immigration DG Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali (pic) said on Tuesday that the department will not extend the programme’s deadline and warned employers that they will crack down on illegal workers nationwide starting next month.
“I am very disappointed, we have given them the chance but they seem to choose an illegal way to hire foreign workers,” Mustafar was quoted as saying in a news report.
Employers who fail to register their illegals into the programme are threatened with fines and even caning — if they have five or more such workers — under the law. Commenting on the employers’ lukewarm response towards the E-card, Shamsuddin blamed the general uncertainty on whether the registration is free or not.
“When it was first implemented it was supposed to be free, but some local immigration offices did impose fees, and when employers complained it was free again.”
Shamsuddin said Immigration later decided that some fees would be imposed upon registration for E-card.
“Besides that, employers who hire illegal workers are — by and large — small companies who are not licensed to operate and therefore, cannot be accepted for inclusion under the E-card,” he said.
The government had introduced the E-card programme to quickly register illegal migrant workers and temporarily allow them to work at their present places of employment to meet the shortages for workers in key economic sectors.
Only workers from 15 countries — including Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Vietnam — are eligible.
The present E-card programme will only be valid until Feb 15, 2018.
Based on the Immigration data, 24,068 illegal immigrants had been deported in operations carried out since early this year till June 1.