Economy, Featured, General, Govt, press

In Malaysia it is easier to say sorry than to ask for permission for illegal migrant workers

Media statement by Steven Sim, MP for Bukit Mertajam


Malaysians should be worried about the stance of the federal government in dealing with undocumented migrant workers from China working in the Johor Forest City project.

After it was exposed in the media that the said development employed undocumented migrant workers, the Home Ministry said that it will legalise the workers involved. (Source:

Firstly, it is clear that our border control is highly problematic when illegal migrant workers from China can enter the country and work in a mega project openly, breaking all sorts of laws, right before the watch of authorities at all levels.

Forest City is not a project hidden in the forest as its name suggests. In fact it is a mega project in the state capital of Johor, projected to build almost 120,000 units of houses.

Secondly, the incident is a conclusive proof that insider syndicate within Immigration Department is still very much active in operation. It was revealed that the undocumented migrant workers were issued work pass after working illegally for a period of time in the said project.

Thirdly, the combination of loose border control and the convenience to legalise undocumented workers seems to encourage illegal entry into the country including via human trafficking. This is because agents and migrant workers themselves know that they can be legalised easily in the future.

I have warned in Parliament that such government policy created a situation where “it is easier to say sorry than to ask for permission” for those entering the country illegally; break the law first, apologise later and then receive approval.

No second chance as a lesson to guilty foreign companies

Earlier this year, the government had initiated rehiring and legalisation process for undocumented migrant workers through the E-Kad campaign. Although the deadline to apply for E-Kad is in June, three months have passed since the campaign began on 15 February 2017.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no effort by the employers of these illegal migrant workers from China to legalise their workers before the exposé by the media.

As such, I urge that no legalisation should be allowed in this case and the harshest actions of the law should be taken against the guilty parties as a warning to these foreign companies. They not only exploited their workers, thus bringing shame to Malaysia, these employers are also breaking our country’s laws knowingly and openly without remorse.

I also urge the local government to issue stop work order on the Forest City project to enable authorities including Immigration Department to conduct investigation and audit over the migrant workers involved in the project.

The government must take the highest measure of precaution on a project of such grand scale which utilises tens of thousands of migrant workers to avoid untoward incidents involving such a big group of foreigners in our country.

Steven Sim Chee Keong
Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam
Deputy Spokesperson, DAP Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources
Director, Penang Institute

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