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[Malaysia] 1,485 illegals [sic] detained in nationwide integrated operation

KUALA LUMPUR: A total 1,485 illegals were detained in an integrated operation launched by the Immigration Department of Malaysia (IDM) nationwide from Friday midnight.IDM Director-General Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the detentions were the results of inspections by IDM with the co-operation of various agencies, including the National Registration Department and the Malaysia Civil Defence Force, on 3,750 aliens.“An operation conducted by the IDM headquarters nabbed 218 illegals from 418 aliens inspected at an entertainment centre and two houses in the Klang Valley for various immigration offences,’’ he said in a statement, Saturday.He said IDM had conducted 2,646 enforcement operations nationwide and inspected 40,321 people since Jan 1 until Thursday.

Of the total, 9,452 illegals of various nationalities were detained for numerous immigration offences, including overstaying, entering the country without valid documents and abusing the social visit passes.Khairul Dzaimee said 176 employers were also detained during the period while 151 had been charged in court and taken action upon.“From all the illegals detained, the highest detentions were from Indonesia (3,261), followed by Bangladesh (2,378), Myanmar (868), Philippines (849) and the rest were from other countries,’’ he said.

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs through IDM would take all the necessary steps and firm action to tackle the issue of illegals.He said the Government would not compromise in ensuring that employers and foreign workers complied with the country’s laws.The firm measure, he said, was necessary to overcome the problem of the influx of illegals into the country.

Source: Daily Express (Malaysia)
Published on 3 March 2019

Israel Recognizes Five Asian Men as Victims of Human Trafficking and Slavery

For the first time since 2010, Israel police have recognized five men as victims of trafficking for enslavement and opened three criminal investigations against their employers, suspected of holding them in prison-like conditions and coercing them to work without compensation.

All five men that police recognized have since been placed in shelters.

Police are also looking into the circumstances of their trafficking into Israel, they payment for them and their passports, which were taken away.

Two of the victims are Indian citizens, another two men are from the Philippines and one is from Thailand.

The probes have been going on for months. The police recognized the men as victims after finding “preliminary evidence” that they had been brought to Israel and held in slavery conditions. The maximum punishment for such a crime is 16 years in prison.

One of the cases was discovered a few months ago when the worker from Thailand was found at a gas station in the south in serious condition. The two other cases were brought to the attention of the police by social welfare organizations.

“These are very sensitive and unusual investigations that have a very high bar for proof,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry.

“There is a need to prove that a deal was made with someone in a foreign country who had knowledge about the trafficking for the purpose of enslavement and that the conditions in which the men were held in Israel meet the bar set in legal rulings. The investigations also require investigative efforts overseas, so they take time.”

Among the suspicions being investigated are payments made in advance by the victims, the confiscation of their passports, and the allegation that they worked day and night seven days a week amid false-imprisonment conditions for no money, or minimal pay.

“They are made to work without a break; this is one indication of slavery,” the Justice Ministry official said.

Despite the rare recognition of men as victims of human trafficking, social welfare groups say the five are just an example of the many thousands employed under similar conditions in agriculture.

“In addition to praising what seems to be the beginning of the authorities’ work to identify the victims of modern slavery in Israel, we are also very worried that all those workers recognized are not rare and extreme cases but individual representatives of a very widespread phenomenon,” said Michal Tadjer, an attorney with rights group Kav La’oved – Worker’s Hotline.

“For years, civil society organizations, led by Kav La’Oved and the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, have been warning about very dangerous models of employment where the road to modern slavery is very short. These models are not only continuing, but the trend of the past two years is to expand them.”

As she put it, it would be better if Israel prevented such employment, which includes paying astronomical sums to middlemen, binding the worker to an employer and reducing the mobility of workers, all “for a group that was long ago shown to be vulnerable to severe exploitation.”

Workers’ rights groups have long attacked the Interior Ministry and its Population and Immigration Authority, complaining about a lack of government supervision of agricultural employment.

Kav La’oved estimates that about 25,000 workers from abroad are employed in agriculture, most of them from Thailand. The organization accuses farmers of providing harsh conditions for employees, paying less than the minimum wage, and withholding information on their rights by exploiting their weak Hebrew.

Late last month the cabinet approved a multiyear plan to fight human trafficking, which included recommendations on stricter enforcement, prevention and cooperation with other countries.

It was decided to increase fines against anyone taking part in human trafficking, especially when it involves prostitution.

Also, the investigation of such crimes has been transferred to the investigative units at the district level. Finally, special units to address the problem and provide training in fighting human trafficking have been established.

Source: Haaretz
Written by Josh Breiner
Published on 3 February 2019

New rules stink, say fishermen

SAMUT SONGKHRAM: Samut Songkhram is the smallest province in the country, but has been known as a hub for Thailand’s fishing industry for decades.

The province has a 23km shoreline, dotted with fishing piers.

Along its roads are food processing plants, and it is only an hour’s drive from Bangkok.

Not unsurprisingly, fishing is the most popular profession and almost all the jobs there are related to the sea in some way.

Yet those piers have been quiet recently, and the docks are deserted.

Many seamen sit and wait on the piers for trawlers to hire them out, but work has become scarce.

This stagnation began soon after the European Union issued the country with a yellow card for problems in the nation’s fishing sector and the government began imposing tough new protocols in an attempt to have it rescinded.

Some trawlers in Samut Songkram province have had to drop anchor after costs rose by 30%.

A yellow card means that a country could ultimately face exclusion of their fish from the EU market.

Commercial trawler owners lament that the government has killed fishing in Thailand.

“The golden age of fishing in Thailand is a thing of the past. The sector is entering its sunset period. I myself am thinking about leaving the industry,” said Pongthorn Chaiyawat, an adviser to the Fishery Association of Samut Songkhram.

He said 50% of fishing boats have been decommissioned over the past three years.

Of Mr Pongthorn’s fleet of boats, two were recently ordered out of the water due to strict licencing quotas imposed by the government.

He said he is currently waiting for the government to buy them back in accordance with its recently initiated compensation scheme.

“If we look at IUU as a game, the winner is the military-led government. It can claim credit for having the EU’s yellow card on Thai fisheries removed. But that victory has been achieved at the expense of the commercial trawler community in the country,” Mr Pongthorn says.

The local commercial fishery has been hit in the past three years after the country was yellowcarded by the European Union.

He warned that the government’s measures to appease the EU have not made business sense. Most of the seafood exported to the EU are tuna and shrimp products. Revenue from these exports amounts to about 30 billion baht per year, he said.

The main market for Thai fishery operators is Japan, which purchases fresh seafood totalling 100 billion baht annually.

However, Japanese traders have taken their business to other countries as the Thai industry has grappled with the toughened regulations.

It is not clear how much the move has cost the local industry economically.

“The capital cost of fishing in Thai waters has increased by 30%. Commercial fishery operators need to spend money on installing Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and face extra costs associated with reporting their yields and activities,” he said.

The EU issued the yellow card on April 21, 2015. Since then, the military government had prescribed tough medicine that ultimately paid off when the EU finally lifted the order on Jan 8.

That came after government passed 138 new laws and also imposed catchment quotas which resulted in the delicensing of many boats to prevent overfishing.

The government capped the number of commercial fishing boats at 10,565, resulting in about 10,000 more boats being removed from the system.

Since 2015, the new laws have resulted in 4,448 legal cases involving fishery law violations. About half of them are over boats refusing to install VMS, one of the government’s headline measures.

So far, the government has collected over 458 million baht in fines resulting from those cases.

Phairit Cheeranai, deputy chairman of the Fishery Association of Samut Songkhram, said the government needs to help the sector.

“Commercial trawlers are suffering from the impractical regulations prescribed by the government. Now it is time for the government to provide remedies.

“Among the measures that the government needs to revise are the stiff penalties for violating fishery laws that are as high as one million baht even for a minor transgression,” he said.

He cited the case of a friend who was fined around 500,000 baht for not providing a Port-In-Port-Out (Pipo) arrival time to an official.

He claimed that his friend had neglected to do so as a member of his crew needed to be transported to hospital due to a medical emergency.

“Unrealistic and impractical regulations are not good for our fishery sector. Some regulations go beyond the EU requirement, such as having observers on board,” he said.

The government now requires overseas trawlers to hire an on-board observer to monitor fishing activities.

Operators must pay 100,000 baht per month for this “service”, said Mr Phairit.

Political parties have been quick to seize on an opportunity to gain support as a result of this upheaval.

Nipit Intharasombat, the deputy leader of the Democrat Party, said the party would change the fishery law to provide greater relief.

“Many regulations are too strict. Participation from fishermen is necessary for the sustainable development of the country’s fishery sector,” he said.

Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 22 January 2019

Report: Despite immigration crackdown, some Chinese workers slipping in on tourist visas

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — As China becomes a global infrastructure builder, more of its citizens are leaving home to work abroad in Africa and South-east Asia, including Malaysia.However, some of the Chinese migrant workers here have been slipping in on tourist visas instead of gaining employment through proper work permits, and end up being abused and denied their salaries, Financial Times (FT) reported today.

“Our labour contractor said we would switch our tourist visas to working visas when we arrived but that has not happened yet,” Liu Wei, a Chinese construction worker in Johor’s Forest City project backed by China, was quoted as saying.

The British daily reported Liu as relating that his 20,000-yuan payment for work completed was withheld by his manager, and that he was unable to demand for it due to his illegal work status.

FT reported that many international large infrastructure projects funded by the Chinese are being increasingly built by workers from their home country, especially in the final phase of construction.

The paper added that the mainland Chinese are drawn to work abroad by the lucrative salaries — a few months’ work can reportedly finance living costs for up to a year at home — and turn to an informal network of subcontractors who charge as high as 30,000 yuan to match workers with construction projects.

“When the crunch comes where the project has to be completed in a very short time and is important politically to the host government, that’s when there will be a lot of Chinese workers who will be flown in to do the last stretch of projects,” Barry Sautman, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told FT.

Allegations about the use of illegal migrant workers in the Forest City project surfaced about two years ago.

National news agency Bernama reported on May 14, 2017 that the Immigration Department had issued 2,485 temporary work permits as well as 1,682 employment and professional visit passes to Chinese nationals working in four construction locations in Johor, including Forest City.

Two years on, FT reported today that Country Garden, the Chinese property developer for Forest City, said “contractors and sub-contractors are responsible for the recruitment, hiring and payroll of local and foreign workers in related projects” and that it frowns on illegal labour.

The newspaper also said the Malaysian government is trying to get the illegal migrant workers properly registered, but did not elaborate further.

The Immigration Department offered a 3+1 amnesty programme last year where illegal migrant workers were given until August 30 to register themselves through legal channels for re-employment. It began cracking down on illegal workers the next day.

Data on the number arrested and deported since enforcement began to date is unknown.

As of January 1, the department has also suspended its Electronic Travel Registration and Information system that allowed Chinese tourists to apply for a 15-day visa-free entry into Malaysia.

Written by Debra Chong
Source: Malay Mail
Published on 16 January 2019

[Myanmar] Construction sites struggle as skilled workers head overseas

Daw Hay Mar, a trader, can only shake her head when talking about the high expenses she incurred in constructing a storage building and workers quarters because of poor workmanship.

She said her nightmare started when she hired a group of construction workers in her neighbourhood for the job.

Daw Hay Mar said the building they erected looked like a patchwork of concrete and steel, so she asked another set of workers to redo the job, doubling her expenses.

“We hired them as we are neighbours, and I thought that since they are working in heavy construction sites they have the basic skills to construct a simple building,” Daw Hay Mar said.

According to industry insiders, the country’s construction industry is suffering a severe shortage of skilled workers, such as engineers, bricklayers, mason, carpenters, as most highly trained workers have sought better-paying jobs abroad.

Skilled workers who are still in the country are working full-time for big construction firms, which have ongoing projects.

Ko Han Si, an electrical worker, has been a daily wage worker for Township Electricity Supply Corporation in Yangon Region for over four years, and is now ready to leave for work abroad despite having to leave behind his wife and one-year-old son.

“Here, we have no holidays. I only earn K4800 (US$3) a day. If I work abroad, I will get a much higher salary and I don’t have to shoulder the cost of daily living expenses so I can send money back to my family,” he said.

Ko Han Si said he will be doing the same job he is doing now as an electrical worker for a construction company where his friend has worked for over five years now. He will be paid US$560 a month, much more than the US$90 he gets at his present job.

Another construction worker, Ko Min Thurein, who works in South Korea, earns about 150,000 won (K213,000) a day. He said he will work there for two years more to save money, although his employment contract has expired.

Ko Min Thurein, from Sittwe Township in Rakhine State, said he went to Seoul under the Employment Permit System (EPS) agreement between Myanmar and South Korea, which provides a five-year contract.

“I decided to continue working here because I have to take care of my family,” he said.

He said that working at high-rise construction sites in South Korea is different from working at similar ones in Myanmar.

Ko Min Thurein said he feels safe working in South Korea because of the facilities and equipment they use on the construction site.

The number of Myanmar nationals who want to work in South Korea is increasing. About 30,000 prospective workers sit for the Korean language proficiency test under the EPS every year.

Most workers going to South Korea prefer to work in the construction and manufacturing industries because of the higher pay.

According to the Myanmar Ministry of Labour, about 25,000 Myanmar workers leave each month for the eight countries with which the government has labour agreements. Thousands more leave to work in countries where the government does not allow citizens to work.

Most Myanmar migrant workers go to Thailand – an estimated 20,000 every month.

U Kyaw Zaw, general secretary of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation, said there is a strong demand for construction workers in Thailand because of the expansion of the country’s tourism sector, which has resulted in the construction of more hotels.

There is also strong demand among garment factories in Thailand, which waive the broker fees of skilled workers they hire, U Kyaw Zaw said.

“Migration is based on money. The value of Myanmar’s currency is lower than Thailand’s, which is why Myanmar workers go to Thailand,” U Kyaw Zaw said.

Local construction firms admit having difficulty matching the facilities, benefits, and salaries offered by foreign companies.

“We have workers who could be skilled labourers and leaders, but they work here just to get experience, then they go to South Korea to work. So we lose them after they acquire skills,” said electrical engineer Daw Phoo Wai Wai Thaw, owner of WAI-Electrical Group Installation and Engineering.

New engineering graduates also work for local companies just to build up their portfolios. After that, they go abroad for the better pay and benefits.

“It is not true that they are going abroad because don’t want to use and share their skills in Myanmar. They leave the country because they need to take care of their families,” Daw Phoo Wai Wai Thaw said.

Contractors admit building projects are being delayed because of the skilled-labour shortage, which forces them to rely on trainee workers.

After the transformation of the education system in Myanmar in 1988, the production of skilled engineers declined, although there were more engineering universities, U Yan Aung, general manager of Asia Builders construction company, said.

He said that more practical training of workers is needed at engineering universities.

“The construction industry would grow again if we could give enough training to general workers,” U Yan Aung said.

U Yan Aung said the local construction industry cannot compete for skilled labourers with the facilities and wages offered by companies abroad.

Efforts by the Myanmar government and non-governmental groups to upgrade workers’ skills have been unable to fill the domestic demand for skilled labour.

At the forefront of the government’s skills programme is the Myanmar National Skills Standards Authority (NSSA) founded in 2007, which has programmes to upgrade skills in 23 industries.

But only about 8000 workers have been tested and issued skilled labour certificates by the NSSA so far, 2000 of them in the garment sector.

According to a recent survey of the country’s workforce, 22 million people are eligible to work, Labour Minister U Thein Swe said.

NSSA officials and contractors said that many of Myanmar’s skilled workers have missed job opportunities in construction and factories because they failed to get skilled labour certificates from the NSSA.

U Ko Ko Naing, an adviser to the German Agency for International Development Cooperation, which provides support to the NSSA, said that while there are many skilled workers available, foreign companies would not hire them because they do not have NSSA certificates.

“Also, some of our workers migrate to other countries when they have acquired skills,” he said.

Although there are many free or paid vocational training courses in the country, workers have difficulty attending them because they have to work long hours to survive.

Unless the government and private sector find ways to address the skilled labour shortage, the country’s economy may remain in the doldrums and economic development will remain a pipe dream.

Written by: Zaw Zaw Htwe

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