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July 31, 2008

NGO calls on Malaysian govt to legalise workers in Sabah
The Malaysian government should legalise migrant labour in Sabah state rather than deport workers, as many Malaysian plantations need the workers, Indonesian state news agency

Antara quoted an advocate for migrant workers as saying Wednesday.

Alex Ong, coordinator for Malaysian Migrant Care, said he made the suggestion to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak out of concern for the possible tension between Asean

nations, particularly Indonesia and the Phillipines, caused by deporting illegal migrant workers.

The Malaysian government plans to start a massive deportation push in August against illegal migrant workers, the majority of them Indonesian and Filipino.

Migrant Care proposed the suggestion for a number or reasons, Ong said, among them that illegal migrant workers are employed by large firms such as Felda, IOI, Tabung Haji Plantation

and others listed on the stock exchange.

"These companies depend heavily on migrant workers because few Malaysians are willing to work on plantations," he explained, adding that migrant labor was more economical.

Raids against illegal migrant workers are also too costly for Malaysia's taxpayers, he said.

There were 7,213 raids involving nearly 43,000 illegal migrant workers between the start of 2007 and April 2008, according to Malaysia's Home Ministry.

"This means an average of six workers arrested in every raid, with each raid costing 25,000 ringgit ($7,661)," Ong said, adding legalisation of migrant labor would be cheaper.

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