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Malaysian immigration offices swamped ahead of crackdown

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian immigration department has been swamped with thousands of foreign workers and their employers in the last few days as they try to apply for work permits before a registration deadline yesterday.

The authorities say they will, from today, begin the rounding up and deportation of foreign nationals who are in Malaysia without valid work or visitor documents.

Malaysia is a popular destination for migrant workers aiming for blue collar jobs, whether as office cleaners or factory workers, in sectors ranging from construction to plantations.

South-east Asia's third biggest economy, with its 32 million population, has about two million registered foreign workers and over one million more who work without employment permits.

Most of them are from neighbouring Indonesia, with large pools of Bangladeshi and Nepalese nationals, and Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Malaysian officials said in February that they would allow the illegal workers to change their status by registering their presence at the immigration department, with a deadline set for yesterday.

But most waited until the last days of last month to register for the so-called E-cards, causing the recent long queues at immigration offices.

"They have had plenty of time, since Feb 15. Due to their stubbornness and negligence, they have left it until the last minute and that is not our fault," Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said on Thursday.

Many of the workers came with their employers.

A wall-plaster contractor known only as Mr Teoh was at the Port Klang immigration office on Thursday to register his Bangladeshi workers.

"They are good workers, and that is difficult to find these days. But if they don't have legal documents, we'll get into trouble," he said.

Officials say there are 600,000 foreign nationals working illegally in Malaysia who are eligible to apply for work permits, but that only some 155,000 had done so by Thursday. - THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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