PUTRAJAYA, May 27 – Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today refuted claims by certain quarters over the government’s handling of foreign workers in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
He said those who accused the government of being inhumane should be clear about the two categories of foreign workers, namely those with permits and those who entered the country illegally.
“Those who have permits are required in the construction, plantation or 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) sectors and are also contributing to Socso (Social Security Organisation), as well as complying with International Labor Laws,” he said in a press conference here today.
He said illegal immigrants without permits and employment documents, including those who entered the country via backdoor routes should not be given special treatment, as they had violated the country’s laws, and threatened the safety and security of the public.
However, he said allegations that the government was being inhumane during raids and while arresting foreigners under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) was untrue.
He pointed out in the case of the EMCO imposed at the Selangor Mansion in Kuala Lumpur, all residents including illegal immigrants were placed under lockdown during the period, however, the authorities allowed those with valid documentation to resume with their daily lives, while those who had no documents were arrested for entering the country illegally.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had reportedly questioned the actions of certain quarters with negative sentiments towards foreigners arrested by the authorities in an effort to curb the transmission of COVID-19.
Ismail Sabri said the government was addressing the issue of illegal immigrants by focusing on the safety and health aspects with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak, and thus, the group was being screened and sent to the Immigration depot.
“We place them at a depot, they are given adequate food, and when it comes to the issue of positive COVID-19 cases, we do 100 per cent screening of illegal immigrants so that we can save them and send them to the COVID-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centre at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS),” he said.
He said the government had spent millions of ringgit to turn MAEPS into a temporary hospital and placed illegal immigrants there so that the group would not be continuously exposed to the outbreak.
“We save them, put them in the best place to take care of their health. To say that Malaysia is not friendly to illegal immigrants is not right, but it (the service) does not change their status as illegal immigrants,” he said.
Therefore, he said the government at a meeting yesterday had decided that illegal immigrants would be deported to their country of origin, and that the matter was being handled by the Immigration Department and Wisma Putra.
“I hope political leaders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will not take the opportunity to be heroes to these illegal immigrants,” he added.