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LETTER | Make it easier for foreign workers to get vaccinated

LETTER | Walk-in vaccination scheme was a major incentive for foreign workers to get vaccinated. Now the government has announced that foreign workers will not be allowed for walk-in vaccination but will have to make appointments for the vaccination.

However, it is a well-known fact that millions of them are undocumented and as such, will refuse the pre-appointment scheme.

This was the reason why walk-in vaccination for foreign workers was initiated and welcomed, but now the government has shockingly reversed this process.

The number of brought-in-dead foreign workers and undocumented workers has reached alarming levels now and the government needs to act fast to overcome the causes and take appropriate action.

The problems concerning foreign workers need to be highlighted whether it is about vaccination or other issues. 

Malaysia should not be stingy about the cost of vaccination for foreign workers as they have contributed enormously to the economic development of the country.

As it is, foreign workers are facing difficulties and hardship with the lockdown due to the closure of factories, construction sites, and other sectors.

Another intimidating problem that they have to encounter is harassment and detention by the enforcement authorities.

Many foreign workers have the necessary documents but some final processes have not been completed because the Immigration Department or the embassies were not fully functioning due to the restriction movement orders in various states.

The passports of some foreign workers are with the Immigration Department and as a substitute, the foreign workers are temporarily given a letter. It appears this letter is not acceptable to the police.

Much of the Immigration Department's work concerning foreign workers' permits has not been completed and is left pending.

Everything on the part of the worker or employer has been done but due to problems and delays in the Immigration Departments, some important documents have not been processed.

This leaves the foreign workers in limbo and open to harassment and arrest by the police. The foreign workers are not at fault but they are in no position to defend themselves because of the lack of some documents.

The government has to expedite the various processes concerning the issuance of work permits by listing the processing of work permits as an essential service.

The government can also order the enforcement authorities to stop harassing foreign workers who can show proof of the basic documents.

Many foreign workers are stopped at police checkpoints and are subjected to serious questioning and threats and no amount of explanation will suffice.

It is time to show some sympathy for the foreign workers and refugees who are also suffering like some sections of Malaysians with little or no income.

Malaysians can display the white flag to draw attention to their deprivation, but what about the foreign workers? Even at the best of times in Malaysia, the foreign workers have a host of problems to grapple with, and now with the economic slowdown, it could be worse.

With reduced travel and intake of foreign workers, now is the time for the Home Ministry and Immigration Department to look at the big picture concerning a lot of difficulties and problems that have been brought up in the past.

Immigration laws need to be amended and made more flexible and relevant changes to the current ones need to be made taking into account the inputs, suggestions, and feedback in the media provided by the public and those affected.

Foreign spouses being denied entry passes to come back to Malaysia from abroad and meet their family members since the lockdown, the yearly tedious renewal of visas, and the difficulty to get appointments during the present movement control order are some of the popular complaints.

It will be better if there is an online process whereby the applicants can submit the necessary papers online and get the visas or other required documents. The Immigration Department needs to become people-friendly.

Furthermore, the various embassies representing the foreign workers and refugees need to rope in the local NGOs to help procure basic aid such as food baskets and other necessities from the government through its assistance schemes.

There is also a need for a task force to investigate the problems faced by foreign workers during the pandemic. There are a few million legal and illegal workers in the country and they have to be taken into consideration when the government implements various measures.

One important problem concerns vaccination of foreign workers with or without legal documents. The government needs to make it easier - and if necessary, mandatory - for foreigners to be vaccinated.

Separate vaccination centres or mobile vaccination units need to be set up for foreign workers, especially near industrial areas and SME hubs to reduce the prospect of infection.

As far as possible, Malaysian citizens should have separate vaccination centres. The media must daily inform the public the locations of the various vaccination centres, especially for the senior citizens to choose centres that are more convenient to them.

The government's on-and-off threats against foreign workers make it difficult for them to volunteer for vaccination as they fear arrest.

Malaysia can only attain herd immunity if the majority of foreigners are vaccinated. 

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

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