Malaysia threatens cane and jail for bosses using illegal workers

Authorities in Malaysia say they will beat and imprison construction bosses if they are found guilty of employing undocumented workers.

The warning came from Mustafar Ali, director-general of the country’s Immigration Department, who is leading a crackdown on bogus employment in construction. He said that so far this year some 30,000 people had been deported. 

The department said it would press for the maximum penalties to be applied to firms with five or more illegal foreign workers. As well as imprisonment, this may include fines of $23,000 and three strokes of the rotan, a cane that is also used to punish schoolchildren.

Ali said: "Caning has been done before on employers. So yes, we will push for the maximum penalty. This is not merely to send out a message, but because we have given ample time for them to register their foreign workers."

Officials have been raiding sites since the beginning of July. The Malaysian press reported that the latest swoops, carried out earlier today and yesterday in the northern state of Negeri Sembilan, found 77 of 85 workers interrogated had no valid documents.

Most were Indonesians living in make-shift dormitories at the site. The 77 were handcuffed and sent to the immigration depot where they are expected to be deported, officials said.

The sweep followed the expiry of an official deadline to register foreign workers from 15 countries. Officials have said only 161,000 of 600,000 migrants who were eligible to apply for work permits had done so by 30 June.

There are some 2 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia and another million believed to be working illegally. The government regularly seeks to flush out the illegal workforce, but this had previously caused labour shortages in certain sectors.

Image: Construction workers with concrete vibrator at a construction site in Selangor, Malaysia (Aisyaqilumar/Dreamstime)

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