Labour Official Upbeat on Migrants-to-Malaysia Restart But no Date Set

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A suspension on sending migrant workers from Myanmar to Malaysia will be lifted when political conditions in the latter improve and the safety of labourers can be better assured, according to U Thein Win, director of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population’s Migrant Affairs Department.

The decision earlier this week to cut off the flow of migrants to Malaysia was widely interpreted as a punitive political move amid a diplomatic spat between the two ASEAN nations over the ongoing violence in Rakhine State, though the Myanmar government did not explicitly frame it as such.

“We have no exact date to resume sending labour to Malaysia. It depends on political conditions in Malaysia. If Malaysia shows that the security situation is good, we will start sending labourers again,” said U Thein Win.

“However, we believe that we can restart sending labourers within short a period,” he added.

The labour ministry issued the suspension order on December 6, with a statement saying only that the decision was “because of the current situation in Malaysia”.

U Thein Win said he was not concerned about the impact the temporary suspension could have on would-be migrant workers because there were plenty of other countries in need of foreign labourers. He added that he was similarly unworried about the possibility of an uptick in illegal migration from Myanmar to Malaysia because both countries had already announced plans to crack down on illegal labour before the end of the month.

“Going illegally to Malaysia is going to continue, but I think that the illegal market will not rise due to the suspension,” he said.

U Myat Thu, a member of the central executive committee of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF), said earlier this week that he believed the moratorium was politically motivated.

“I think this is the Myanmar government’s response to Malaysia after their prime minister’s action. Malaysian companies will face difficulties if Myanmar workers don’t go there,” he said.

The two nations have been engaged in a war of words that escalated this past weekend when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak attended a rally in Kuala Lumpur condemning the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State.

U Zaw Myo Myint, managing director of Royal Gate International Co Ltd, which focuses on sending Myanmar migrant workers to Malaysia, told The Myanmar Times that overseas employment agencies might face problems due to the suspension if it requires them to break pre-existing contracts with partner agencies in Malaysia.

He said some Malaysian partners would be understanding of the predicament, while others might not be. In the case of the latter, local agencies might be subject to compensation claims, he added.

“It will be fine, if there is a show of good faith from the Malaysia side. If not … we will face trouble with agencies as well as workers’ complaints,” he said.

U Zaw Myo Myint said the labour ministry should be considering an exemption from the suspension for the nearly 5000 workers who have already received a letter of summons to work in Malaysia.

He pointed out that while the suspension would put a stop to above-board issuances of Malaysian work papers and visas for Myanmar nationals, nothing would prevent them from travelling to the country ostensibly as visitors.

He predicted a rise in the number of Myanmar nationals travelling to Malaysia on visit visas but intending to seek work upon arrival.

“Now, Thailand and Singapore have already signed visa exemption [agreements with Myanmar]. Those two countries are transit gateways to Malaysia in order to enter illegally. So the workers who adamantly want to go there for jobs will go there in any way they can,” said U Zaw Myo Myint.

U Win Tun, vice chair of the MOEAF, said he was optimistic that the negative impacts of the suspension could be managed.

“I think we have no problem as a result of the suspension because we can solve this with our member agencies,” he said.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

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