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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flying tempers, fainting fits in 6P mayhem


The Putrajaya immigration office becomes a war zone as foreign workers, employers and agents rush to beat amnesty deadline.
PUTRAJAYA: Thousands of illegal foreign workers and their agents and employers have been jam-packing the immigration office here for the past week to beat the Dec 31 deadline for registration under the 6P amnesty programme.
Observers agree that the place looks like a war zone, with tempers flaring, people moving about in confusion, banging and kicking on doors and no one able to get heard above the noise. At least one woman fainted this morning.
“It’s pure chaos,” said an employer of plantation labourers, speaking in the parking lot outside the immigration office. “There are not enough counters, not enough forms, not enough queue numbers. The immigration officials seem to be as confused as everyone else.”
Most employers and employment agents who spoke to FMT said the pandemonium was inevitable because the 6P programme had been poorly planned and organised. “The government seems to be changing policies every week,” said one employer.
Many agreed that this week’s confusion had its root in a recent decision by the Immigration Department to send text messages to employers, telling them to get their workers registered by Dec 31 or “face severe action”. The legalisation process is supposed to end on Jan 10.
The employers said they started receiving the messages only a few days ago.
They urged the Home Ministry to push back the deadline for legalisation and the Immigration Department to open up more counters and deploy more officers.
“This is the second time I’m here, and today I’m giving up too,” said a petrol station owner from Petaling Jaya.
“The officers said 10,000 people came and they can only process less than 1,000.”
Ministry comes under fire for bad job
He said the confusion was so great that even the Rela officers stationed there gave up trying to keep order. “Employers were scolding them, and they finally ran away.”
Employers and agents also said the Home Ministry was doing a bad job at disseminating information about the 6P processes and what workers, employers and agents were required to do.
Under the 6P programme, which was announced last June, illegal foreign workers will either be legalised or deported without punishment. The six Ps represent the Malay words for registration, legalisation, amnesty, monitoring, enforcement and deportation.
By Aug 31, according to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, 1,016,908 legal foreign workers and 1,303,126 illegals had been registered using the biometric system under the first phase of 6P. The second phase—legalisation—began in October.
The programme has been controversial from the start. There have been numerous complaints that it was open to exploitation by unscrupulous parties. Critics said it had spawned bogus agents, opened the opportunity for management companies to overcharge their clients and encouraged legal foreign workers to abscond from their employers.
In another controversy, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin alleged that illegal immigrants registered under 6P had been made to swear an oath that they and their families would vote for Barisan Nasional. The Home Ministry has denied the allegation and lodged a police report against her.

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