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Immigration, migrant workers told to settle dispute out of court

The High Court today told a group of Indian migrant workers and the Immigration Department to come to an amicable settlement over their dispute in the delay of issuing work permits.

Judge Faiza Thamby Chik, who was to have heard contempt proceedings against the department for not adhering to an earlier court order, told counsels representing both parties to "sit down and discuss the settlement".

He then adjourned the hearing to Nov 26.

Charles Hector, the lawyer representing the migrant workers, later told reporters that he had to discuss with his clients over their next course of action.

"We have not agreed to a settlement at the moment. I have to get instruction from my clients on the matter.

"However, we still feel that we should go on with the proceedings as the (Immigration) department has yet to issue the work permits promised to us. Furthermore, we are concerned with the costs incurred in the filing of this proceedings," he said.

On July 24, the 27 workers had initiated contempt proceedings against the Immigration Department, its former director-general Aseh Che Mat and five other officers for failing to heed a court ruling over the issuance of work permits.

On Dec 6 last year, the High Court ordered the department to issue temporary work permits to the workers to enable them to work legally for a construction company, Central Generative Sdn Bhd.

Re-issue permits

The workers claimed that the former DG eventually issued permits on April 19, but 13 of the permits lapsed in January and February this year while the rest lapsed on July 8.

Later, when the workers filed their application for contempt proceedings on July 24, the department reissued one-year work permits from April 19.

The workers are however seeking for permits to be issued from July this year.

"We will lose out on three months with the April 19 permits as they were only issued on July 25.

"Yesterday, the department informed the workers' current employer that they will re-issue permits from July 31, but until now, they have yet to do so," said Hector.

The Immigration Department was represented by federal counsel Mohd Abazafree Mohd Abbas.

Meanwhile, the workers are also seeking costs and compensation for their ordeal and court proceedings. The High Court is scheduled to hear the negligence suit on Sept 6.

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