Malaysiakini Letter

Let's not cast our foreign workers aside

Amir Hamdan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Immigration has been a hot-button issue in Malaysia.

Judging from the intense raids and crackdown on the illegals working here, it shows on the rigorous enforcement by the immigration authority in their effort to minimise and eradicate the gripping phenomenon that has taken the world over, from Germany to the US. But how does it fare in the larger context of our economy and security?

Foreign workers, without a doubt, have been the bedrock for massive and rapid development in Malaysia. It’s no secret that among the countries in the region, Malaysia belongs to the elite club of highly-developed and highly-industrialised Asean nations with a GDP value placing the country as one of the major economic players in this part of the world.

This turns Malaysia into a magnet for people from less-developed nations in the region seeking better opportunities and prospects.

The manner in which these workers make their way to Malaysia is a completely different issue. Notwithstanding their ambiguous status, whether legal or illegal, these men and women faced a harrowing journey rife with hunger, sickness, and death.

When they arrived, most of them are duped and conned into serfdom and subjected to slave-like conditions.

What more, the myth that hard work pays off, in the end, is not a luxury known to them because of the lack of safety regulations that Malaysia is infamous for.

This often brings them fatal consequences, dashing any hope for a much-needed repatriation to their home countries. Some of them do, however, make it home in the end, happy now that their back home and possessing the option of not having to put their life on the line anymore.

The opportunity afforded to them has a positive and long-lasting impact on their bottom line, granted that they prioritise creating wealth for Malaysia first.

So what prompted the stern deportations against these foreign workers? How come Malaysia’s action mirrors the rhetoric of Trump’s administration?

Is the Malaysian government so preoccupied with law and order that they forgot the contributions of foreign workers to the country?

One can argue that the foreign workers are causing job opportunities to dwindle for the local population. One can even argue that no locals want these jobs in the first place.

What is sorely needed is a dignified balancing of opportunities as the de facto policy pursued by authorities so that all stakeholders can reap the benefits that Malaysia brings to the region and the world.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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