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Hontiveros urges Malaysia to observe laws amid crackdown on illegal aliens

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Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday expressed grave concern over the welfare and treatment of Filipino workers in Malaysia.

She made the remark amid reports that Malaysian authorities have resumed a crackdown on alleged illegal migrant workers.

She called for “more transparency” on the part of Malaysian authorities with regard to procedures in conducting raids and detaining undocumented migrant workers.

The Malaysian government has begun a crackdown on migrant workers under an operation it has dubbed “Ops Mega 3.”

Launched at midnight on July 1, local news sources say that this resulted in the arrest of over 229 immigrants.

It was reported that immigration authorities on July 6 arrested 43 illegal foreign workers in Kuala Lumpur.

“While I understand that the law must be followed, I ask the Malaysian government to ensure that procedures take into account human rights principles and proper observance of ILO (International Labor Organization) conventions,” she said.

It is important that as the law is observed, “its implementation must be tempered to avoid abuse,” the opposition senator said.

“It is vital for us to understand that the phenomena of migrant and undocumented work materialize as a result of exploitation and systems that are naturally disadvantageous to the vulnerable sectors of society,” she said.

Hontiveros added, “We have to remember that many undocumented workers do not wish to be in the situation they’re in.”

“And that the real, systemic causes of the problem should be addressed if authorities want to really put a stop to the influx of undocumented work,” she said.

Hontiveros said that much of migrant work was “driven by human trafficking and fake agencies that profit off of fostering employment debt among those they recruit, forcing people into undocumented work.”

She said that the previous Malaysian government’s hiring policy required an employer’s consent before a worker could change employers.

This has been particularly problematic in cases of employer abuse, intimidation and exploitation, and sometimes forces workers into undocumented work as a way of escaping harmful situations.

“This is something that requires change on multiple fronts, most especially labor policy. We should never dehumanize workers,” Hontiveros said.

“Because I am sure that if the law permitted more flexible means of entering work legally, they wouldn’t have to resort to undocumented living as a means of protecting themselves,” she said.