Press statement – June 8, 2021 – UMA
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today called on the Philippine government to protest Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin’s announcement of a total crackdown on undocumented workers in Malaysia. The announcement took place in spite of a lockdown in the whole country starting June 1 up to June 14.
Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores, chairperson of UMA, stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) latest data on the number of Filipinos in Malaysia as of 2014 was 620,043. In 2011, the DFA had stated that around 35% of Filipinos there were undocumented. This would amount to around 200,000 Filipinos.
Ka Tonying added that historically, since the 1970s, migrants, many of whom are from Mindanao, have been migrating to Sabah to flee from conflict and economic deprivation. Thousands of them also work as agricultural workers in Sabah’s oil palm plantations. A number of them also are stateless, with their parents unable to afford the yearly registration fee needed to remain documented.
There is also no assurance that those who would be arrested and detained, then likely deported, would be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Like in the Philippines, detention centers for undocumented migrants in Malaysia are already overcrowded. As of July 2020, the number of detainees interred had already reached 15,163, way beyond the capacity of accommodations meant for only 12,350. What more if 200,000 Filipinos are added to the detention centers, or even Indonesians whose number of undocumented exceeds a million?
Even migrant advocates in Malaysia, who have signed a petition to stop the arrest of undocumented migrants, focus on the goal of controlling the spread of Covid-19, for fear that new clusters of infection would increase in immigration detention centres.
They also stated that such operations would intimidate foreign workers, documented and undocumented alike. In fact, such actions would cause them to hide and avoid any government representative. This would only defeat the government’s efforts to achieve herd immunity in Malaysia. Herd immunity requires vaccination of 80% of the Malaysian population, including the migrant community. Failure to reach this percentage will delay the country’s economic recovery and extend the suffering of the people.
The Philippine government should heed these concerns of migrant advocates in Malaysia, especially those of Filipino nationals. Whether documented or not, they send remittances to their families back home, struggling for jobs in Malaysia precisely because our own government could not provide them jobs here in the Philippines.
Gi Estrada – Media officer – 09179450552