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Over 150,000 fail to renew work permits

This is written by my colleagues Tharanya Arumugam and Rebecca Hani Romeli.

KUALA LUMPUR: MORE than 150,000 foreign workers under the 6P programme failed to renew their temporary work permits.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim said this would turn their status into illegal immigrants, which in turn, increase the number of undocumented immigrants in the country, which stood at five million. 

He said the department was preparing to nab and deport these illegals.

Mustafa said the department had registered a total of 521,734 foreign workers under the 6P programme since 2011.

Under the programme, the government agreed to extend the temporary work permits of 352,493 foreigners, whose employment would end in December 2015. 

He said the remaining 169,241 foreigners under the programme were now illegal immigrants as their temporary work permits had expired.

“Regardless whether foreign workers were under the 6P programme or not, they are illegals if their work permits have expired. If our officers catch them, the illegals will be arrested and necessary arrangements will be made for their deportation,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Deputy Immigration director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi said action would be taken against the 352,493 foreign workers if their work permits surpassed the new deadline of December next year. He urged the foreign workers to come forward and apply for their permit renewal.

Sakib, however, said there was no guarantee the temporary work permits would be renewed for those under the 6P programme. “The foreign workers who had applied for permit renewal will be screened in several aspects, such as health and criminal records. Those who failed their medical examinations and found to have committed criminal offences will not have their permits renewed. They will be deported.”

The government had, on Thursday, extended the employment of foreign workers under the 6P programme for another year, effective immediately.

Home Ministry’s acting secretary-general, Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, had said this reprieve was extended to 352,493 foreign workers with Temporary Social Visit Passes, which were still valid and that they were being employed legally.

“Many employers are still dependent on foreign workers under the 6P programme as they have failed to hire local workers. They are not willing to change to other operations that are not labour-oriented,” he said in a statement.

The 6P programme had legalised 521,734 illegal immigrants. They were allowed to work legally for three years (approved sectors) and two years (frozen and outside policy sectors).

Alwi said the decision was made after the government learnt that the loss of a large workforce would affect businesses and the economy. “The decision is meant for employers who have not repatriated their foreign workers after the expiry of the employment period.”

He said employers keen to continue employing foreign workers could apply for Temporary Social Visit Passes renewal at state Immigration offices.

Employers were required to make human resource planning so that their business operations would not be affected after the workers were sent home. “There will be no more extension. The government will not compromise with employers who fail to comply with policies.”

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