After E-Card deadline, Malaysian immigration officers carry out raids in nationwide crackdown

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Just after the clock struck midnight on Sunday (July 2), a convoy of trucks and cars with 86 officers on board rolled out from Malaysia's Immigration Department headquarters.

Driving along the dimly lit roads - still empty after Hari Raya - the team headed towards Kapar, where a make-shift dormitory for foreign workers was the first to be targeted for an enforcement raid.

The team was headed by Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali, who had insisted on only moving after midnight.

"We have to give them time (to get their E-Card)," he had told reporters earlier.

With the passing of the deadline last month, the nationwide crackdown on illegals has begun.

At the dormitory in Jalan Jati Kiri, Kapar, there was just enough light to make out the workers gathered in the courtyard, where officers checked their documents one by one.

Enforcement officers rounded up 239 workers and found 51 were without valid documents. They were later hauled away for further action. Most of the offenders were from Bangladesh.

Mustafar said most of the workers inspected were working at nearby furniture and plastic manufacturing factories.

The workers were calm as they waited in groups to be inspected.

A female worker from Myanmar said she was not aware of the deadline.

"My boss went to get the cards but not everybody got them," she said, adding that her employer had told them not to worry about it.

Just a day before, Mustafar had warned that "there will be absolutely no extension" of the deadline for the E-Card registration, which ended on Friday.

The E-Card, launched on Feb 15, functions as a temporary confirmation of employment for illegal workers and replaces valid travel documents from their countries.

The card is given out to employees for free and is valid until Feb 15, 2018.

In Ipoh, a handful of illegal immigrants tried to flee as enforcement officers raided a construction site in Taman Menglembu Impiana Adril at around 11.20am but were caught.

Perak Immigration operations chief Suhai­rie Bah Ali said of 28 workers who were rounded up and checked, four, including an Indonesian woman, were found to be illegals.

"Most of them have proper documents but the four were unable to produce theirs. One claimed that his documents were with his employer, the other at his kongsi house and one told us his brother has it," he said.

An earlier operation in the Chandan Raya Industrial Estate saw the arrest of 31 illegals working in a food processing factory - 22 from Myanmar and the rest from Nepal.

"We also detained the factory owner, in his 40s. He will be investigated under Section 56(1)(d) of the Immigration Act for harbouring the workers," he said.

"Some of the workers were hired to work at farms but they were found working at the factory. They will all be remanded at the Immigration headquarters in Meru for 14 days," he said.

State Immigration deputy director Sharmanrizal Rustam said as of Friday, 7,168 E-Cards were issued, almost half of which were in June, as many tried to beat the deadline.

In Penang, 23 foreign workers were rounded up following a raid at four premises in Bukit Tengah and Bukit Minyak.

Penang Immigration director Meor Hezbul­lah Meor Abd Malik said most of those arrested were from Indonesia, adding that 8,023 foreign workers in the state had registered for the E-Card.

In Kedah, 20 illegals were nabbed at a construction site in Ampang Jajar.

State Immigration Department director Zuhair Jamaludin said a 35-year-old employer was also brought in for questioning.

"Our target was to issue 10,000 E-Cards but only 4,949 were given out since February."