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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia migrant ban hits firms

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia migrant ban hits firms<

Malaysia migrant ban hits firms
Malaysian businesses are complaining of labour shortages following the mass exodus of illegal workers.

Some 500,000 migrants left Malaysia to avoid possible fines, jail and whipping during a four-month amnesty ahead of a mass deportation operation.

Malaysia says they can return but only as long as they have legal documents from their home country.

But the government in Kuala Lumpur has accused Indonesia of dragging its heels over the return of its workers.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak says Indonesia is putting obstacles in the way of their return.

He complained that those who want to come back are being charged over $300 in processing fees, which is equivalent to more than six weeks wages.

The issuing of documents is also taking too long, he said.

"We hope Indonesia could have a more efficient and effective system to facilitate the return of its workers here," he was quoted as saying in Malaysia's New Straits Times online newspaper.

'No choice'

Malaysian construction companies and oil palm plantations have been among the first to feel the effects of the decision to deport illegal workers.

Factories and restaurants have also been left under-staffed.

400,000-600,000 foreigners have already left Malaysia
At least 200,000 remain
Many work in construction, plantations and domestic service
They risk jail, fines and whipping if found

Mr Razak said Indonesian workers would be given priority to return and take up the jobs because they are familiar with the country.

"But we will start taking in workers from other countries if the situation does not improve... We have no choice," he said.

More than 300,000 immigration officers and volunteer reservists have been called up to help expel the hundreds of thousands of illegal workers who did not leave during the amnesty.

The operation, launched last week, has been prompted in part by fears of rising crime, says the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur.
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