M’sia denies expulsion of migrant workers

The return of thousands of Indonesian citizens is for entering Malaysia without permission prior to the Covid-19 pandemic


FOREIGN Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein yesterday denied allegations that thousands of migrant workers from Indonesia had been forced to leave the country during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

He also described the claim by non-profit rights group Migrant Care that the Malaysian government had expelled Indonesian citizens amid a period of partial lockdown to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus as “untrue and irresponsible”.

Hishamuddin said in a Facebook post yesterday that the claim had also been denied by the Indonesian government.

His counterpart, Retno Marsudi, had said there will be Indonesian nationals who will return to the country but did not define it as an expulsion.

The ministry’s spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah had also made it clear that the return of thousands of Indonesian citizens was not because they were expelled, but for entering Malaysia without permission prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur (KL) also denied the claim.

“I have a good relationship with Retno. In fact, Wisma Putra and the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry are always engaged to address issues that affect our citizens.

“I would like to advise the public to verify their facts before making any statement. Do not make any irresponsible claims that will adversely affect our bilateral ties,” Hishamuddin said.

Migrant Care CEO Wahyu Susilo was quoted by a local news outlet as saying that over 21,000 Indonesian migrant workers had been deported by Malaysian authorities. Wahyu had called on the Indonesian government to object to the mass deportation as it had the potential to spread Covid-19.

Teuku Faizasyah had responded by saying that the term “mass deportation” was inaccurate as it involved the dissent of immigration rules before Covid-19.

Separately, it was also reported that the livelihood of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia were severely affected by the MCO which has been extended to April 14.

“Many of our migrant workers in Malaysia are construction workers, factory workers, waitresses or janitors. They are paid daily or weekly,” Indonesian lawmaker Christina Aryani told The Jakarta Post.

The Indonesian Embassy in KL did not immediately respond for further comments.

Malaysia has an estimated four million migrant workers, of which only about 1.7 million are documented. They are expected to earn at least the minimum wage, which has been increased to RM 1,100 per month in January last year.

According to a report by The World Bank, Indonesians make up 40% of Malaysia’s total foreign worker population, followed by Nepalese (22%) and Bangladeshis (14%). Migrant workers are typically employed in sectors such as plantation, manufacturing, construction and services.