Malaysia: Raids on migrant workers to resume

Local and migrant workers marched together on May Day 2018.

Less than two months after coming into power, the new Malaysian Government is preparing to resume raids on undocumented migrant workers on 1 July 2018. The operation called ‘Ops Mega 3’ will target sectors in which there are a high proportion of undocumented migrant workers, including construction and timber processing.

“In our experience, the majority of Malaysia’s five million undocumented migrant workers are victims of exploitation, trafficking, or other poor employment practices,” said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino.

Reducing the number of migrant workers has been a core policy commitment of the new Pakatan Harapan Government. However, the Malaysian economy relies heavily on these workers. Malaysia’s immigration laws mean that migrant workers are bound to their employer; the prevalence of exploitation forces many workers into the illegal economy.

Trafficking is also common. Just over a week ago it was revealed that over 100,000 Bangladeshi workers were trafficked into the country by a politically-connected criminal syndicate. The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2018 recently announced that Malaysia has been downgraded to the Tier 2 watchlist. 

Tolentino continued, “These raids are an attack on the rights of victims. Undocumented workers are generally in extremely precarious financial situations, trying to service debt in their lower-wage host countries. While we understand the policy intention, we believe that the best way to lower the numbers of foreign workers to remove the financial incentive with their exploitation by raising wages across the board.”

Malaysian migrant worker communities will be sharing information and updates regarding Ops Mega 3 here.