The government should consider allowing the Rohingya refugees in the country to work in the plantation and services sectors that are currently facing a shortage of workers, an academician said.
Dean of Universiti Utara Malaysia's College of Law, Government and International Studies Associate Prof Ahmad Martadha Mohamed said the move would enable the authorities to keep tabs on their movements and regulate their numbers.
"The Rohingya refugees possess cards issued by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Since the UNHCR already has a system in place to register Rohingya refugees, it is easier for the government to monitor the movements of the refugees concerned," Ahmad Martadha said.
According to UNHCR, as of May this year, a total of 151,560 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with the commission in Malaysia. Refugees from Myanmar made up the majority at 137,261 and they comprised Rohingyas (52,960), Chins (42,973), Myanmar Muslims (11,232), Rakhines and Arakanese (5,762) and other ethnic groups.
Ahmad Martadha said there has been a lot of debate on the Rohingya refugees in this country and their plight as most of them were poor and were not allowed to work in this country.
"Not only are they prohibited from working in this country but their children are not allowed to enrol at the government schools either.
"The government should consider allowing them to work so that they are not a burden to the country. When they start earning an income, they will also spend their money and do their bit to stimulate our economy," he said.
On concerns by Malaysians that they would lose out on job opportunities if the refugees were allowed to work, Ahmad Marthada said they should only be allowed to take up employment in sectors that fail to attract enough locals, such as the plantation, construction and services sectors.