LETTER | The announcement by Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran that the government has agreed to reinstate the foreign workers' replacement system to all sectors, effective July 1, is certainly a rational decision, given that the economy of the country is dependent on the contributions of millions of foreign workers.
Until a comprehensive and long-term solution is worked out to reduce the dependence on foreign workers, the requirement for employers to go through a new application process simply to replace foreign workers who have returned home is onerous and redundant.
However, the reinstatement of the foreign worker replacement scheme should not be used as an excuse to recruit new workers from abroad. The human resources minister should take cognisance of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of foreign workers already in the country.
These workers have registered under the rehiring programme and, after having paid thousands of ringgit (six to seven thousand ringgit) to government-appointed agents, they are languishing without work permits due to inefficiencies, or perhaps even fraud, in the rehiring programme.
The government has to take responsibility for the failure of the rehiring programme and one of the remediation steps that it can take is to offer the job vacancies in the worker replacement scheme to the victims of the failed rehiring programme.
Employing the workers who are already in the country, who are technically undocumented because of the failure of the rehiring programme, has many advantages. They are available at very short notice, they are familiar with the laws, customs and language of the country and require little or no orientation, and they can be recruited at minimal costs.
Of course, there are details that will need to be sorted out, but recruiting those already in the country should be given top priority, because it helps to significantly reduce the number of undocumented foreign workers in the country; it is also more equitable to them, some of whom may be mulling legal remedies from the government for their continued state of being undocumented in spite of having registered under the rehiring programme more than a year ago and for being subjected to what may be deemed as unlawful detention.
It would, therefore, be advisable for the Human Resources Ministry to consult with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations such as Tenaganita, which have considerable information about and experience in dealing with migrant workers, and about the merits of hiring those who had registered under the rehiring programme, instead of opening up the floodgates for another influx of new workers from source countries.
JOSEPH PAUL MALIAMAUV works at Tenaganita, a human rights NGO that promotes and protects the rights and dignity of migrant workers and refugees.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.