KUALA LUMPUR: All foreign workers without valid documents as well as illegal ones will be picked up in the nationwide crackdown.
However, workers – whose papers were being processed – or those waiting for the renewal of their permits, will be released later.
“We will verify their status. If their documents are being processed and, as long as they did not overstay in the country, they will be freed,” said Immigration Department director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad.
He added that these workers would be released within 24 hours.
Beginning on Sunday, the authorities have embarked on a big operation to hunt down an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants nationwide.
Following this, players in industries have raised concerns over several issues including the operation.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of workers who are waiting for the renewal of their permits, because the process can take up to three months,” said Peter Kanadiah, labour advocate of The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC).
As for those claiming to have been cheated by agencies tasked by the Government with registering immigrants under the Illegal Immigrant Comprehensive Settlement (6P) Programme, an Immigration source said they would deal with such complaints on a case-to-case basis.
The Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association has also called on the Government to investigate claims that many foreign workers did not receive their permits despite having applied and paid for them.
Its president Ho Su Meng also claimed that some agents have closed down their operation and this resulted in the workers not being able to obtain a valid permit to work in the country.
Separately, business operators claim Ops 6P Bersepadu is also causing an exodus of foreign workers who have been waiting for work permits.
Among the affected businesses is a popular Malay restaurant in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, which was forced to suspend operations because its Indonesian workers could not get their documents in time and left.
“They left us because they did not believe their applications would be approved, so now we are short-handed and our customers are wondering when we will re-open,” said the owner who wanted to be known as Kak Tipah.
A business owner, who asked to be identified only as Mohd Rahmat, said his Indonesian workers were brought by employment agents who told him that they could help get work visas for them.
The 45-year-old businessman, who runs a restaurant in Penang, said he had paid RM14,000 to have the workers registered.
“They worked for me for a few months while we waited for the permits. Then the Government announced this operation and I decided to let them go back to their country,” Mohd Rahmat said.