Press Releases

Response From Migrant Worker Communities and Migrant Rights’ Civil Society Organizations With Regards To Ongoing Raids on Undocumented Migrants in Malaysia

04 Jul 2018

In response to the ongoing enforcement operations on undocumented migrant workers by the Immigration Department of Malaysia and as per press release (31 May 2018) by the Home Affairs Minister of Malaysia, YB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Haji Mohd Yassin, of the new Pakatan Harapan government, we the migrant community and CSOs concerned about migrants’ rights in Malaysia are very concerned about the future of migrants in the country. The directives in the press statement fails again to address the root causes of the issues and do not provide enough time for proper discussions and analysis for just remedies which need to be holistic, comprehensive and be based on ILO Conventions and fundamental Human Rights principles. These concerns also cover refugees, asylum seekers and stateless communities, who are also at risks of being detained during this new enforcement operations.


How Migrants Become Undocumented


Many of the migrants the Malaysian Government has labelled “Illegal” (or in more humane terms “undocumented”) attain that status due to no fault of their own. Some of these reasons include:


a.      Trafficking: Malaysia’s history as a human trafficking hub is well documented by civil society and even reflected in Government data. Recent revelations regarding a large and politically well-connected trafficking syndicate, as well as Malaysia’s downgrade to Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report further reinforces our fears of the prevalent and possibly even systemic existence of trafficking networks within Malaysia. We must never punish migrants who became victims of trafficking to Malaysia, as their circumstances are beyond their control. Criminalizing victims and survivors is not the way to go; we should instead be going after the syndicates and those responsible.


b.   Deception: Agents have a history of giving false advice and promises regarding the process of getting permits and jobs in Malaysia. Some migrants have low literacy levels, making them susceptible to fraud and deception, and even literate migrant workers become possible victims of fraud and unjust treatment by both recruiters and employers. Recruiters promise work permits and good employment contracts with decent wages and conditions. Upon arrival, however, these workers often find that not only have their contracts, employment sites, and terms and conditions been changed, but that they may have also violated Malaysian immigration laws. For most workers there is little access to justice or right to redress  mechanisms in proving the fraud and deception.


c.       Rehiring: The rehiring process is lengthy and non-transparent, and the subcontractors and sub-agents of rehiring face little accountability. It is a privatized process driven by profiteering motifs, fraud and deception. For example, workers are not given receipts of rehiring payments and many agents cheat workers, taking their money but not providing e-cards. There is no adequate redress mechanism that can investigate and track these agents. While we welcome the cancellation of problematic rehiring contractors, we are afraid that workers in the midst of registration may be again victimized by this move.


d.   Renewal: The migrant working visa renewal process is equally riddled with cheating, a lack of transparency and little accountability by agents and employers. Most migrants have little idea of how this opaque process works. Passports are often illegally held by employers and whether their visas are renewed or not is out of the beyond the worker’s control.


e.     Employer bondage and exploitation: The past Malaysian Government’s hiring policy , which now needs to be reviewed by the new government, requires an employer’s consent to for workers to change employers. This inflexibility is particularly problematic in cases of exploitation, intimidation and physical violence where workers have no choice but to abscond and become undocumented. This is exacerbated where workers’ passports have been illegally retained. This system, which resembles the widely-criticised kafalasystem practiced in Gulf countries, provides little option to seek redress for workers in this situation, particularly with the overhanging threat of deportation.


f.     Amnesty blacklisting: The 3 + 1 amnesty program, which blacklists workers for five (5) years, further discourages them from using the amnesty system and thus forces them to become undocumented. 


g.     Accountability: The complex commercial chains of private outsourcing companies and agents that govern migrant workers’ affairs activities render them largely unaccountable. Companies and agents often deny or neglect their responsibility for their workers, and many migrant workers become undocumented because of the irresponsibility of these companies and agents. 


h.     Border enforcement: Documented corruption and inefficiency within border enforcement agencies add to the problems faced by migrant workers, benefitting from the activities of the accountable recruitment industry and providing little relief or assistance when things go wrong.   


i.      Recruitment debt: Many migrant workers believe the promises made to them in countries of origin by agents and employers, borrowing huge sums from syndicates and moneylenders to finance the initial migration costs. This debt bondage is exacerbated by the illegitimate substitution of contract terms, arbitrarily driving down wages and conditions and imposing unaccountable wage deductions, making repayment increasingly difficult. Sending people home in such circumstances is putting many workers at risk, and this needs to be clearly addressed.


To ensure that all labour migration matters are handled in a way that gives dignity and respect to migrant workers, we demand an holistic solution based on the following recommendations:


1.     An immediate moratorium on raids/enforcement operation “Ops Mega 3.0” to ensure no workers are punished for crimes which are not of their fault. These raids and operations should be suspended while a holistic assessment of all the issues and potential comprehensive solutions are undertaken with all stakeholders with regard to labour migration.


2.     That the Government makes available its Standard Operating Procedure for conducting raids and detaining undocumented migrant workers, so that human rights and civil society organisations can ensure fundamental rights are protected and due process guaranteed.


3.     To decriminalize the “undocumented” status of workers (which is an administrative offence), and recognize that becoming undocumented is primarily an outcome of labour exploitation. This is especially relevant for vulnerable groups like women and child migrant workers, who face additional layers of exploitation which leads to them being undocumented and victims of forced labour and trafficking.


4.     That the Committee for Institutional Reforms facilitates safe dialogue spaces between the Government of Malaysia and migrant communities and other relevant stakeholders and social actors to propose evidence-based solutions. Such solutions must be based on clear verified labour market data (for example from the Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis, employer organizations and other sound economic analysis) and base its solutions on fundamental Human Rights and Decent Work principles. The involvement of the International Labour Organisation would be advisable in this respect.


5.     To facilitate the overhaul and expansion of Government-to-Government hiring mechanisms as the primary means by which workers are recruited in Malaysia in a manner that is transparent and accountable as well as evidence- and rights-based.


6.   More time must be given to migrant workers to process and secure their working visa status and make decisions on their working status in Malaysia. Unrealistic deadlines force workers to risk going underground, collaborating with exploitative actors within the labour supply chain, driving criminality and other high-risk activities.


7.   The Government should stop blacklisting migrant workers who use the 3 + 1 Amnesty Program, an action which only discourages its use. The program should be conducted exclusively by the Immigration Department to avoid levying excessive charges on already-struggling workers and discourage profiteering.


8.   The Government must ensure all migrants have access to justice and the right to redress, including when they are caught and detained. This due diligence must be practiced by enforcement agencies and the judiciary to ensure accused migrants have a fair trial and a chance to defend themselves. Migrants must have guaranteed access to legal aid from the National Legal Aid Foundation to achieve these goals.


Migrant workers play a huge part in securing economic growth for Malaysia and will still be needed in years to come by various industries. The Government must play a more active role in educating the Malaysian people that migrant workers are not their enemies or the cause of their own financial or employment problems.


Migrants are here because the Malaysian government, employers in formal and informal sectors and agents opened spaces for their work. So how can migrants be ‘illegal’? No person is illegal. We have always been keen to discuss these matters with all appropriate authorities to find the best solutions. This is a good time for the new Government to take stock of what the real situation is and what determine what possible solutions might be, before taking any actions.


Accordingly, migrant communities and CSOs concerned about migrants’ rights request an urgent meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Human Resource to discuss and propose  comprehensive, rights-based solutions on these and related issues.


Endorsed by

1.      Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang Manggagawang Pilipino Overseas(AMMPO),Philippines/Malaysia

2.      Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO),Philippines

3.      SERANTAU,Indonesia/Malaysia

4.      Building and Wood Workers’ International Asia-Pacific

5.      GEFONT Support Group,Nepal/Malaysia

6.      Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC, Nepal/Malaysia

7.      Myanmar Migrants Rights Centre (MMRC),Myanmar/Malaysia

8.      Muglan-Migants Advisor, Nepal/Malaysia

9.      Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia(SBMI) , Indonesia

10.  Nepalese People Progresive Forum, Nepal/Malaysia

11.  Tenaganita,Malaysia

12.  Migrant 88

13.  Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign,Malaysia

14.  Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor(PSWS), Malaysia

15.  Committee of Asian Women (CAW)

16.  North South Initiative (NSI), Malaysia

17.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia ,Malaysia

18.  Pusat Komas

19.  Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, Bangladesh

20.  Workers Hub For Change(WH4C),Malaysia

21.  People Forum for Human Rights(People Forum),Kathmandu, Nepal

22.  Center for Migrant Advocacy, Philippines (CMA-Phils),Philippines

23.  The People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA),Indonesia

24.  SEAFish for Justice ,Indonesia

25.  Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)

26.  Asian Network for Social & Agricultural Development (SANSAD)

27.  Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community Association (CCFC),Cambodia

28.  Community Development Services (CDS), Colombo, Sri Lanka

29.  Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies, Jordan

30.  Association for Community Development (ACD), Bangladesh

31.  Think Centre, Singapore

32.  Dibashram (Migrant Workers Cultural Centre), Singapore

33.  Burmese Worker Circle, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

34.  Tahanang Filipino Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

35.  Institute of Education Development, Social, Religious and  Cultural Studies (infest) Yogyakarta, Indonesia

36.  Migrant CARE Indonesia

37.  Migrant CARE Malaysia

38.  New Thessalonian Apostolate (NTA), Malaysia

39.  PieceWorks International

40.  Projek Dialog, Malaysia

41.  Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) ,Malaysia

42.  Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan Dan Persekitaran Positif Malaysia (SEED),Malaysia

43.  Radanar Ayar Association,Myanmar

44.  Asia Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network(ATNC)

45.  Workers Initiative Kolkata, India

46.  Asia Monitor Resources Centre (AMRC)

47.  Konfederasi Serikat Nasional(KSN), Indonesia

48.  Federation of Indonesian Trade Union(GSBI),Indonesia

49.  Sedane Labour Resource Centre, Indonesia

50.  Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL),Cambodia

51.  Parti Sosialis Malaysia(PSM), Malaysia

52.  International Domestic Workers Federation(IDWF)

53.  Textile Garments Workers Federation, Bangladesh

54.  Australia Asia Workers Links, Australia

55.  Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)

56.  Serikat Buruh Kerakyatan (SERBUK),Indonesia

57.  Angkatan Peduli Insan, Malaysia

58.  Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT), Malaysia

59.  Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia

60.  Arts For Grabs, Malaysia

61.  Archdiocesan Office of Human Development, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

62.  Geutanyoe Foundation

63.  Bhalobashi Bangladesh, Bangladesh

64.  Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM), Malaysia

65.  SAVE Rivers, Malaysia

66.  Harmonyworks, Malaysia

67.  The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), Malaysia

68.  Justice For Sisters, Malaysia

69.  Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), Malaysia

70.  Parti Murba, Malaysia

71.  Kuliah Buku (KUBU), Malaysia

72.  Smile Education and Development Foundation, Myanmar

73.  Aliran Kesedaran Negara(ALIRAN), Malaysia

74.  Community Transformation Initiative (CTI), Malaysia

75.  Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN), Malaysia

76.  Hope Organization, Malaysia

77.  Advocates for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK), Malaysia

78.  Gusdurian Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

79.  International Planned Parenthood Federation

80.  International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Asia Pacific

81.  Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Malaysia

82.  Malaysia Muda, Malaysia

83.  Malaysian Progressives in Australia

84.  VajraLink, Malaysia

85.   Electronics Industry Employees Union Southern Region, Malaysia

86.  Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM) 

87.  GreenWatch, Dhaka, Malaysian

88.  Human Traficking Watch, Indonesia

89.  Gabungan Serikat Buruh Indonesia(GSBI), Indonesia

90.  Front Perjuangan Rakyat (FPR)

91.  International League of Peoples' Struggle(ILPS) Indonesia,

92.  Keluarga Buruh Migran Indonesia( KABAR BUMI), Indonesia

93.  Institute for National and Democracy Studies(INDIES), Indonesia

94.  People Idea Culture, Malaysia

95.  The Human Lens

96.  Indonesian Migrant Muslim Alliance( GAMMI-HK), Hong Kong

97.  Al Jami’ayyatus Sholeha, Hong Kong

98.  United Indonesian Migrant Workers Against Overcharging, Hong Kong

99.  Asosiasi BMI Progresif (ABP), Hong Kong

100.                      Warkop Aremania, Hong Kong

101.                      Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers(ATKI-HK),Hong Kong

102.                      Jamaah Silahturohimi Blitar,(JSB-HK) , Hong Kong

103.                      Nurul Hidayah,Hong Kong

104.                      Lentera Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong

105.                      Al Islami, Hong Kong

106.                      Indonesian Migrant Workers Union( IMWU-HK),Hong Kong

107.                      Asosisi Pekerja Indonesia Timur Tengah(ASPITT),Hong Kong

108.                      Al Istiqomah International Muslim Society, Hong Kong

109.                      Indonesian Migrant Workers Union Macau(IMWUM), Macau

110.                      Beringin Tetap Maidenlike and Benevolent (BTM & B),  Hong Kong

111.                      Orang Indonesia Merah Putih (OI-MP), Hong Kong

112.                      Migrant Resource Centre(MRC) Penang, Malaysia

113.                      Arakan Refugee Relief Committee (ARRC),Malaysia

114.                      Alliance of Chin Refugees, Malaysia

115.                      Kachin Refugee Committee, Malaysia

116.                      The Patani, Patani/Thailand

117.                      Tamil Nadu Land Rights Federation (TNLRF),India

118.                      IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh

119.                      Future Watch Movement, Bangladesh

120.                      ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC)

121.                      UNI Asia Pacific Regional Office (UNI APRO)

122.                      Peoples Forum, Nepal

123.                      POURAKHI, Nepal

124.                      Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore

125.                      International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers                                Associations Asia-Pacific Regional Office (IUF-APRO)

126.                      CARAM ASIA






1.      Rev Ng Kok Kee, Pastor of Harvest Community Church Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

2.      Mahi Ramakrishnan, Filmmaker/Journalist

3.      Dr Chan Chee Khun, Academician

4.      Anselmo Lee, Activist

5.      Laurence Kwark, Activist

6.      Abu Hayat, Consultant on Bangladeshi Migration Corridor

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