Government to Introduce a New Policy that Allows Refugees to Work in the Country

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BY: Michelle Liew

The government is expected to introduce a policy that allows refugees to work in the country in the near future.

Human Resources Minister, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan, said he was informed that the policy would be introduced soon but did not detail when it would be implemented.

“There is no policy yet for now. A policy will be issued, as it has been discussed at the Cabinet level. I was informed that it would be as soon as possible, but (Minister of Home Affairs) Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin. KDN (Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN)) will decide later. The Human Resources Ministry (KSM) is not involved because it involves security issues. We are worried that if we allow them (refugees) to work in this country, this move will cause more refugees to enter Malaysia,” he said.

In a written answer in Parliament last March 24, Saravanan said, his ministry led a committee to study the matter, including sectors suitable for refugees to work in. His party will also ensure that the permission granted will not cause competition with the locals, to obtain jobs.

In his answer, Saravanan said, through the improvement of the National Security Council Directive No. 23, a Work Permit Guideline for Refugees will be introduced.

Previously, the Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) wanted the government to consider the Rohingya ethnic group in the country, to work to fill the shortage of workers, that is putting more pressure on employers in the country.

The recommendation voiced by the President of MEF, Datuk Dr. Syed Hussain Syed Husman echoes the urgent situation of the labour shortage issue that employers have been responsible for recently. This was considered the right time to permit Rohingya refugees who are registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) to be taken into the workforce. This also includes other refugees who also received valid UNCHR cards.

Among the reasons put forward by MEF include the cost being more practical, economical and no wait time compared to the process of hiring new foreign workers.

Currently, refugees holding UNHCR cards are only allowed to work in the informal sector such as self-employment for subsistence. Most of the Rohingyas in this country work as fishermen, fishmongers, construction workers and general cleaning workers.

The matter was revealed by a non-governmental organization (NGO) related to the Rohingya community, the Islamic Organization for the Development of the Rohingya (UNIROD) based in Penang.

Such jobs do not require a high-skilled background.

Founder and Chairman of UNIROD, Mohammad Islam Sultan Ahmed said, there are ethnic Rohingyas who work and are paid between RM60 and RM80 a day.

It’s worse, said Mohammad Islam, when some live unemployed, thus dragging their lives into the realm of social problems such as household issues, leading to household and marital issues due to financial constraints.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), Datuk Ahmad Asri Abdul Hamid admitted that was visited by UNCHR representatives to discuss the issue of Rohingyas being employed in the construction sector.

Ahmad Asri said, his party does not have the authority to allow this refugee group to work in the construction sector, unless there is a specific policy issued by the government.

“Actually, employers have been applying for a long time to allow refugees to work in the construction sector, because it can save costs, they can hire them directly because they are already in Malaysia,” he said.