Manpower and Transmigration Minister Jacob Nuwa Wea called on the Malaysian government to take strict action against employers who hired illegal workers and to tightly supervise its border areas in a bid to stop the illegal inflow of Indonesian migrants.
For Indonesia's part, President Megawati Soekarnoputri has instructed relevant authorities, including regional administrations, to take necessary measures to prevent Indonesians from attempting to enter Malaysia illegally.
"Our government's efforts to campaign for legal overseas employment will be useless unless Malaysia takes necessary actions on its part to tighten supervision along the border areas and punishes Malaysian employers that hire illegal workers," Nuwa Wea said here on Wednesday.
The minister said, however, Indonesia could not place all of the blame on Malaysia, since besides its failure to take preventive measures, it has insufficient job opportunities to offer to the workers.
Thousands of Indonesians have been seeking jobs in Malaysia also because of the higher salaries offered in the neighboriong countryr. The number of fully jobless in Indonesia has reached 9.6 million, while the underemployment figure has reached 42 million.
Nuwa Wea pointed out that the number of illegal Indonesian workers in Malaysia would continue increasing unless stern actions were taken against Malaysian companies that continue to employ illegal migrants -- mostly Indonesians. Illegal workers are regularly caned or given jail sentences before their deportation, but thus far no Malaysian employers have been punished," he said, while explaining that Malaysian law calls for caning and/or 3,500 Malaysian Ringgit (around US$920) in punishment for any of its citizens found guilty of employing illegal migrants.
He also revealed that the inflow of illegal Indonesians to the neighboring country had reached between 3,000 and 4,000 per month, but only a few hundred of them can be deported under the bilateral agreement between the two countries inked three years ago.
"These groups of illegal migrants that the Malaysian immigration office has been deporting almost everyday over the last three years is different from the planned operation to deport around 800,000 other illegal migrants en masse," he explained.
According to the agreement, Malaysia is responsible for transporting the illegal workers to the ports in either Belawan, North Sumatra, Tanjung Priok in Jakarta or Tanjung Perak in East Java, while the Indonesian authorities are supposed to arrange for their trips to their home villages after that.
Malaysia has recruited around 250,000 volunteers to crack down on plantations, contruction projects and private homes and offices employing illegal workers in its attempt to deport around 1.2 million illegal migrants due to the increasing number of crimes in that country.
Indonesia has officially asked Kuala Lumpur to suspend the mass deportation until after the Sept. 20 presidential vote to avert any disturbances to the political situation at home. The government has also been working hard to deter another Nunukan tragedy. More than 70 Indonesians died and hundreds of others were hospitalized in Nunukan, East Kalimantan, mostly due to hunger and other ailments after Malaysia deported around 400,000 illegal migrants in 2002.
Nuwa Wea said after a limited Cabinet meeting on Monday that the President had given an instruction to security authorities to crack down on the trafficking of women and children through the country's ports and to regional heads to educate people on the legitimate and legal procedures required to work abroad. He also said that stern actions against middlemen involved in human trafficking would be considered.
The Indonesian Labor Exporters Association (Apjati) explained that both the Malaysian government and employers had their own interests when it came to illegal migrants.
"The presence of illegal Indonesian migrants is not a new issue in Malaysia because in the past, the illegal migrants were misused by the Malaysian government to support a certain political party while Malaysian employers have profited from their employment," Apjati Deputy Chairman Idris Laena said when asked to comment on the issue.
Idris Laena said labor exporters were not shocked over Malaysia's plan to launch the Nyah (deportation) Operation.
"The Malaysian government plans to deport the illegal migrants following the recent general election that gave a majority victory to Prime Minister Achmad Badawi and the because the palm oil harvest season in that country is over for this year," he said.
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"