The Immigration Department will start freezing the assets of employers who hire and harbour illegal foreign workers from next month.
Its Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said there is a provision under Section 56(1) of the Immigration Act to freeze assets and bank accounts of employers. However, it has not been fully enforced.
With employers given until the end of this month to sort the workers’ travel documents, visas and permits, it has raised concerns among employers. Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan warns that it would result in Malaysians and legal foreign workers losing their jobs.
Shamsuddin says if a company’s assets are frozen, it would have a significant impact on other employees as well. The affected employers would not be able to carry on the business and have to lay off all their employees.
While the Immigration Department says that employers’ assets can be frozen exercising a provision under Section 56(1), Shamsuddin argues that the Immigration Act does not have any provision allowing the authorities to freeze the assets of employers who hired or harboured illegal immigrants.
He says Section 56(1) provided for a fine of up to RM10,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to five years and it is unclear if the provision provides for freezing of assets.
Labour lawyer and human rights activist Charles Hector says this action seems too drastic if it is merely to control the number of undocumented migrant workers in the country.
“Before they can freeze the employers’ assets, there needs to be a court order, and the employers deserve the right to be heard,” he says.
“They have to justify a reason for freezing the assets. If their reason is to stop the employers from harbouring more undocumented workers, or prevent them from using the assets to pay off illegal dealings with the migrant workers, then yes. The freezing of assets is valid.
“Otherwise it is too drastic to be freezing the assets if the government is simply trying to control the number of migrant workers in the country when they have not done anything to curb the situation all this while,” he says.
Meanwhile, DAP Sungkai assemblyman A Sivanesan says it looks like a shortcut to handle the overwhelming number of undocumented migrant workers in the country.
“The government knows that the undocumented migrant workers have been around and have not done anything all this time. Why all of a sudden are they taking action on the employers?
“The government needs to come out with a concrete plan and not just find a shortcut to temporarily ease the situation,” says Sivanesan, who is also a labour lawyer.
He adds that taking action on the employers would not solve problems as this would prompt them to abandon undocumented migrant workers.
“What is going to be the undocumented migrant workers’ next course of action? What are they going to do?”
Soo Wern Jun