LETTER | Contagious diseases are one of the main concerns when bringing in more foreign workers into the country. There are approximately 1.21 million valid and active foreign workers recorded under the Immigration Department’s Malaysian Immigration System (myIMMs) as of December 2018.
Starting January last year, a new regulation was enforced to prevent contagious diseases from being brought into the country via the incoming foreign workers. The regulation requires every foreign worker to undergo four compulsory medical screenings, namely (in the following order):
- Immigration Security Clearance (ISC);
- Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema); and
- Check Out Memo (COM).
According to the 2017 Audit Report on the Ministry of Human Resources, about 85,000 foreign workers failed to adhere to the regulation above. For example,
- 1,700 workers failed Screening 1;
- 2,850 workers did not undergo Screening 1;
- 41,600 workers failed Screening 3;
Despite the above, it was also found that 1,000 foreign workers who failed Screening 3 were still granted a Temporary Working Pass.
As a result of the above failure, it was found that 7.000 workers were diagnosed with tuberculosis while another 1,800 workers were carrying the Hepatitis B disease.
The failure to enforce the regulation could lead to epidemics of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria and filariasis. These would not only affect the people’s health but also would have serious repercussions on the general economic and social well-being of the country. Therefore, it is critical for the Ministry of Human Resource and the Ministry of Health to work hand-in-hand to prevent this from worsening.
First and foremost, both ministries must resolve all the issues highlighted by the auditor-general, such as:
Timely medical check-ups (30 days from the date of arrival);
- Increased scrutiny on temporary working passes granted without the required health screening i.e. Fomema; and
- Updated data in the MyIMMs system to prevent any loopholes, particularly the Check-Out Memo data, to ensure that workers listed under COM data have really left the country
Next, the ministries must appreciate that local citizens are already wary of the huge influx of foreign workers into the country. Let’s not add to that concern with the risk of increased contagious disease due to the government's failure to ensure that all health checks regulations are strictly adhered to.
The following is a quote from a journal titled 'The Dilemma of Managing Foreign Workers in Malaysia: Opportunities and Challenges':
“The entry of foreign workers and the dependence of our country on foreign workers are not the main issues, but the overflowing entry of these foreign workers without control to the extent of jeopardising the safety of this country is actually the main problem that needs to be focused upon.”
The writer is with the Institute for Research & Development of Policy (IRDP).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.