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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — The DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) has proposed the government conduct a legalisation scheme for undocumented migrants working in Malaysia parallel to its Covid-19 vaccination programme that could solve two of the country’s biggest headaches in one shot.
Its deputy chairman Chiong Yoke Kong said doing so would also enable the government to create a database and confirm the real number of undocumented migrant workers here. Estimates have placed the group at about 3.5 million.
“Dapsy welcomes the government’s decision but recommends that it should roll out the vaccination programme concurrently with a campaign to legalise foreign workers to solve the pandemic and public health problems in our country once and for all,” he said in a statement late last night.
Chiong said Science and Technology Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s verbal promise that the government will refrain from detaining undocumented migrants during the Covid-19 vaccination may not convince the community to volunteer for the programme.
“That is because the power to take action against undocumented foreign workers is limited to the Department of Immigration and the PDRM (Royal Malaysia Police) under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“As such, some employers and migrant workers might be worried that the government might talk the talk but not walk the walk due to uncoordinated government responses,” the Pahang state lawmaker said.
He said legalising undocumented migrants during the immunisation drive would also enable the government to track the vaccine’s efficacy.
“The issue of undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia has always been a thorny social problem, which has been bringing about negative repercussions to our security, education, and public health.
“Therefore, Dapsy suggests that the government should grab the opportunity of vaccination to simplify the registration procedures of legalising all undocumented foreign workers in the country in order to solve the crux of the problem related to undocumented foreign workers.
“This will fundamentally solve the problems related to foreign workers in various aspects, including our public health system that is increasingly being strained by the pandemic,” the Tanah Rata assemblyman said.
Chiong pointed out that 60 per cent of new Covid-19 cases have been linked to workplace infections, most of which involved foreign workers.
He added that squalid living conditions experienced by both documented and undocumented migrants pressed on the need to make sure both groups are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Khairy who is the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme gave his assurance last Thursday that the government would not detain any undocumented worker willing to undergo the inoculation scheme.
He added that the Covid-19 task force will work with the Home Affairs Ministry to contact foreign embassies, international organisations, civil society and non-governmental organisations to help inform the migrant community of this leeway.