Immigration Department personnel in protective suits are pictured during a raid on illegal immigrants in Selayang Baru amid the enhanced movement control order May 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA, May 20 — Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah has again slammed Putrajaya for its continued usage of Covid-19 as an excuse to crack down on undocumented migrants and refugees.

Citing an immigration raid that took place today on Jalan Othman, which has been placed under the enhanced movement control order, Maria said the prejudice and discrimination these groups currently face is unacceptable especially during a time of crisis.

She said the crackdown will further encourage migrants to evade the authorities out of fear as they attempt to avoid arrest.

“These migrants have been struggling during the MCO, being left stranded because they are unable to earn a living during this time and unlike Malaysians, do not qualify for any of the Government welfare schemes. 

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that the authorities are still choosing to round up migrants in Old Town although I have spoken against such violations of rights,” she said in a statement here.

Earlier today, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud told reporters that around 200 individuals were found to be lacking official documentation during an initial census conducted on Jalan Othman.

Khairul Dzaimee said those lacking documentation comprised nationals from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and, Pakistan.

He also assured those detained will be temporarily placed in the department’s holding depot before being deported to their home countries following discussions with their respective embassies.

She also questioned the government’s plan to go after migrant communities, as the group has long played a key role in the country’s economy.

“Migrants have played a key economic role in our economy for many years and we should not simply be rounding them off and deporting them now without clear policy. 

“What will happen to the employment gaps that they leave behind in our economy?” she asked, before pointing out that many of the migrants in PJ Old Town work at the Jalan Othman wet market and with petty traders in and around PJ.

She said the government should consider evaluating the immigration status of each migrant and consider giving them proper documentation to allow them to continue working, lest traders be hurt economically without the migrant workforce.

“Many undocumented migrants do enter Malaysia through legal means but face significant hurdles in the process of renewing their work permits. 

“There must be an effort made to repair the system which is being tarnished either through corruption at the ground level or being deceived by agents and employers due to the lack of accountability and transparency in rehiring migrants.

“Simply removing migrants is not a solution and does not equal more employment opportunities for Malaysians,” she said.

The Immigration Department had in recent weeks raided several MCO and EMCO areas for undocumented migrants before detaining them, despite the Health Ministry previously telling migrants and refugees not to worry about their status when coming forward for Covid-19 testing.

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