KOTA KINABALU: An immigration crackdown on illegal workers in Sabah is on the cards following the end of the six-month “Rehiring Sabah 2017” programme, which was poorly received.
Employers were encouraged to register their illegal workers during the six-month period, but only 1,088 of the estimated 50,000 illegal Indonesian and Filipino workers had registered since the programme kicked off on Feb 16. State Immigration Department director Musa Sulaiman said they did not know the reason behind the poor response from employers.
“We will have to go to the ground and ask employers why they have not participated,” he told reporters. The programme, which was carried out by the state-appointed Syarikat Inti Padu Technology Sdn Bhd, was part of an initiative to overcome worker shortages in the agriculture, construction, manufacturing and service sectors.
“For now, there is no directive to extend the rehiring programme,” said Musa, adding that any such directive would have to come from the state government as immigration issues were the state’s prerogative.
He said that firm action would be taken against employers who hire or harbour illegal workers in plantations or other places of work.
“They have been given six months to register and if they did not do it by Tuesday, they will have to answer to the law,” he added.
It is understood that the company charges about RM1,200 to register each worker, which does not include levies and other immigration charges.
Musa added that until July 31 this year, the Immigration Department had carried out 793 operations and screened 23,563 people, of which 2,738 were found to be illegal immigrants.
Filipinos made up the highest number of illegal immigrants with 1,928, followed by Indonesia (725), Pakistan (64) and the remaining 24 coming from India, China, Vietnam and Thailand and others.
He said a total of 60 employers were arrested for harbouring or hiring foreign workers illegally.
Musa also said that the state government had allowed for workers to work until the age of 60, up from the previous 55-year age limit, but would have to pass a medical screening first.
Foreign workers will also be allowed to work up to 15 years in the state, up from the previous limit of 10 years. “Under the previous 10-year policy, foreign workers can work for five years plus another five. Now, they will be given an additional five years subject to them passing a medical check,” he said.