The government has started arresting illegal foreign workers soon after the deadline for E-card application, rounding up 1,035 illegal foreign workers and 16 employers within the first day of operation.
The speedy raid operation has raised alarm in the market, as many illegal foreign workers go into hiding for fear of being detained while legal workers refuse to turn up for work as well.
Industries that are highly dependent on foreign workers will be the hardest hit, including the construction and F&B sectors which are now suffering an acute labor crunch.
In view of this, there have been voices calling for the government to extend the deadline for E-card application, allowing employers to have more time to apply for their illegally hired employees.
To be honest, the government has given them four and a half months to apply from February 15 to end of June. The time has been more than enough, but many employers have opted to ignore the deadline owing to a number of reasons.
The immigration department has earlier estimated some 600,000 illegal foreign workers to apply E-cards but the outcome has been very disappointing, with only 23% or about 150,000 turning up.
As if that is not enough, many employers rushed through their applications during the last minute, stretching the capacity of immigration offices to their limits. This reflects the habit of Malaysians rushing through things last minute, which has to be changed at any cost.
As a matter of fact, the government has previously introduced similar “bleaching” programs but due to the inconsistency in implementing the measures, many tend to believe that the deadline for E-card application will be extended this time, and thus the tidak apa attitude.
We cannot deny that the number of people applying for E-cards has fallen far below government expectation, and the employers must bear this responsibility to a certain degree.
However, the government must also review any issue with the E-card application procedure that has somewhat discouraged the participation of many.
With so many illegal foreign workers in the local job market, it remains a daunting task for the government to address the problem. It will not be easy for immigration enforcement personnel to pick up the million-strong illegal foreign workers across the country, while the problem of shorthandedness in various sectors will deteriorate if the issue is not properly addressed.
It is against the law to hire illegal foreign workers. As a country ruled by law, we must not allow illegal foreign workers to flood our job market without taking any action. The immigration department is only doing its job by carrying out the raid operation.
To resolve this matter, the government must draw up a comprehensive foreign workforce policy to ensure that all sectors could gain access to sufficient and lawful supply of workers.