Report on the Immigration Department Arrest of Burmese Migrant Workers

Three foreign workers from Myanmar were arrested by the Immigration Department enforcement officers in Malacca on June 25th, 2008 for the alleged breach of S.6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/1963. On the basis of a complaint lodged by their employer, their temporary work permit has subsequently been revoked. It is understood that these workers are currently detained for an indefinite period at the Lenggeng Detention Centre in Negeri Sembilan.

One of the workers had, on June 11th, 2008 lodged a police report at the Brickfields Police Station, Kuala Lumpur with the assistance of the Labour Resource Centre. In her report, she alleged that the other two workers who were arrested and herself were subjected to frequent sexual harassment and assault while engaged at work. To date, police investigation (Brickfields Report No: MTR/004964/08) is still ongoing.

It is our view that the Myanmar nationals should not have initially been arrested; not least before a preliminary investigation is conducted. In this case, their arrest was carried out based on the report of their employer. Ideally, had the Immigration Department perused the workers’ documents and work permit with their said employer, the arrest would not have occurred. Furthermore, since the Immigration Department has a complete network database of foreign workers in Malaysia, this procedural check would be relatively straightforward.

The workers were alleged of having absconded. However, the arrest actually took place at the workers’ hostel lodging which clearly shows that they had not, in any way, fled.

We are also of the view that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Immigration Department to arrest the complainant as police investigation on the alleged sexual harassment and assault is still ongoing. Likewise, the ambit of sexual harassment is under the prerogative of the Labour Division, and not the Immigration Department.

We are of the further view that these workers have the right to file a claim against their former employer vide S.20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 through the Industrial Relations Department for the revocation of their temporary work permit.

Mr. Anthony Chua, the Malacca Bar Human Rights Sub-Committee Chairperson had spoken to an officer of the Immigration Department in Malacca to expedite their release. As an auxiliary action, Ms. Florida A. Sandanasamy and Mr. Saharuddin Bin Adnan will be going to the Lenggeng Detention Centre to receive further instructions from the migrant workers.

Members of the Bar who are willing to assist in this matter may contact Mr. Anthony Chua for further information.


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