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MEF: Malaysia needs to take unwavering stance against forced labour, undocumented immigration

Publish date: Sat, 02 Dec 2023, 07:06 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has to take an unwavering stance to curb the issue of undocumented immigrants which has contributed to claims of forced labour and modern slavery, says the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

Its president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said with continued efforts and support from stakeholders, there will be ongoing improvements in addressing this issue.

This, he said, would also potentially boost Malaysia's position in the United States' Trafficking In Persons report in the near future.

Syed Hussain said in Nov 2021, the National Action Plan on Forced Labour (NAPFL), formulated through the involvement of three parties with active participation from MEF and other stakeholders alongside the ILO, was launched concurrently with the third National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP 3.0).

Syed Hussain explained that NAPFL has outlined strategies and integrated steps aimed at eradicating forced labour by 2030.

"The government, backed by stakeholders including MEF, has made concerted efforts to resolve these issues and restore Malaysia's reputation.

"However, Malaysia's efforts to combat forced labour were impacted during Covid-19 due to actions by the US imposing Withhold Release Orders (WRO) on exports by several Malaysian companies to the US and Canada, particularly during the pandemic around 2020 and 2021.

"The eradication of forced labour requires systemic solutions to commensurate with the magnitude of the problem," he said when contacted by Berita Harian today.

He added that among the challenges in foreign worker recruitment currently include the overlapping roles between the Home Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry and the involvement of foreign labour agents, hindering the effective implementation of the foreign worker recruitment system.

"The government needs to address and eliminate the involvement of third-party agents both in source countries and domestically to achieve the goal of eradicating forced labour by 2030," he added.

MEF is collaborating with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Protocol 29 to produce various practical toolkits to guide and raise awareness among employers in eliminating forced labour in workplaces.

Responding to activist Andrew Wallis who described modern slavery as a significant illicit industry in Malaysia estimating around 212,000 victims, Syed Hussain said that such assessment was unfair and inaccurate.

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