Home, Human Resources minister set for PC after joint meeting

KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry are scheduled for a press conference later today after discussing the current status of the freeze on foreign worker quota applications.

The press conference, set for 6pm after the joint meeting between the two ministries, is understood to lay out efforts to improve any gaps and coordinate the policies of the two ministries, so that the issue of foreign workers is better managed.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail last week had said the meeting with newly-minted Human Resources Minister Steven Sim is also to discuss issues involving employers who do not comply with the agreed laws.

He said other issues to be discussed involve the Passport Act and Employment Act under the Immigration Department and cases of exploitation of foreign workers.

On Jan 6, in a joint press statement, both ministries said a special meeting will take place today to specifically address foreign worker issues and discuss the current status of the freezing of foreign worker quota applications which will be brought to the Cabinet for approval.

On Mar 17 last year, the quota application and approval for foreign workers including through the Foreign Worker Employment Relaxation Plan was suspended for all sectors.

However, employers were given up to 18 months to bring in foreign workers to Malaysia after paying the levy.

It is understood that some employers might have brought in the workers with or without jobs to meet the deadline.

On Sept 4, the government lifted the freeze on foreign workers for the barber, textile and goldsmith sub-sectors.

Applications for foreign workers in the three sub-sectors was then opened on Oct 10.

Then on Dec 7, the then Human Resources Minister, V Sivakumar, said the Cabinet had not made any new deliberations on the freeze.

Issues surrounding foreign workers are not new in Malaysia, but recent cases of alleged mistreatment have raised concerns about Malaysia possibly slipping down to Tier 3 of the United States Trafficking In Persons Report.

Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani called for the government to address the longstanding issue involving foreign workers to safeguard the country's image from being branded as a haven for human trafficking and forced labor.

The issue was triggered by an incident on Dec 20 in which 171 Bangladeshis marched to file a report after claiming that their agents had failed to provide them with jobs after three to six months.

The workers were detained on the same day and handed over to the Immigration department for overstaying but they had valid documents.

Saifuddin and Sim have taken action against the company, blacklisting it, revoking its remaining quotas, and initiating legal action against them.

However, several groups have voiced their opinion that foreign workers' management should be solely under the purview of the Human Resources Ministry instead of the current two entities.

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