Burmese migrant workers living in Malaysia are claiming that the nationwide crackdown on illegal migrant workers has reached a violent peak. IMNA covered the announcement of the crackdown, which officially began on February 14th, on February 9th.
According to the Burmese contingent of migrant workers that IMNA interviewed, Malaysian Immigration police forces have taken to targeting areas heavily peopled by migrant workers, storming workplaces, and even arresting legal migrant workers in their quest to purge Malaysia of illegal foreign workers.
“The authorities are focusing on migrant workers who live in Kotayara quarter in Kuala Lumpur. In that quarter are many Burmese restaurants and stores, so many Burmese migrant workers live in that place,” explained a Burmese migrant worker named Ko Min Thu, who works at a store in Kotayara quarter.
Sources explained to IMNA that previously, illegal migrant workers in Malaysia have been able to escape arrest simply by restricting themselves to their palaces of employment; immigration police most commonly only detained workers who allowed themselves to be caught in public. Now, however, Malaysian immigration police have begun raiding shops and factories in search of illegal workers.
“On Saturday, March 17, the arrests were very violent. They [the authorities] forced their way into places like gold shops or stores, and arrested workers. Normally, they only question and arrest people who are out on the road [in public places]. That Saturday, many people were arrested because many people went outside [in public]. On that day, about 400 were arrested by the Malaysian police” claimed a Burmese woman who is a restaurant owner in Kotaraya quarter.
Malaysia’s police force formerly only arrested workers living in the country without legal identification, but sources claim that workers in possession of legal ID are now being caught up in this most recent wave of arrests.
A migrant worker explained that commonly, employers at factories in Malaysia demand that workers that are in possession of legal identification, such as passports or documents from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), turn these documents over to their employers. Without identification to show during police interrogations during the crackdown, legal migrant workers are often arrested along with their illegal counterparts; employers must bring their employees’ documents to their detention centers before such workers can be freed.
Illegal migrant workers are often left to fend for themselves in prison, until they can bribe their ways out.
“They arrested many people people during this month, on March 15th through 18th, they arrested workers at the factories, the people who have no documents, they are put in prison about 2 months, after that the people who want to leave, they have to connect with the brokers, and they have to pay 3000 ringgit [to leave prison]” a Burmese worker living in Kuala Lumpur informed IMNA.