The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) have different views on the issue of the government allowing refugees to work in Malaysia, according to a report by Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

MTUC president Abdul Halim Mansor raised the issue of how refugees who were employed here would end up resettling due to legal loopholes. He commented: “We cannot afford to hire refugees because most of them will then stay here for as long as they wish.”

“There is no specific timeframe for refugees to stay and leave here, unlike legal documented workers,” he added in a comment to FMT.

This was in response to Starbucks noting how it would hire 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years, in response to US president Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

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Mansor stated how the Malaysian government should not facilitate the hiring of refugees as part of the foreign workforce in the country. “Refugees have no documentation. Besides, if refugees were to work here, they would not be protected by Malaysian labour laws,” he said.

He also noted that Malaysia was not obliged to resettle refugees as it was not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (UNHCR); which defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

Meanwhile, MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan shared in the report that unemployed refugees often contributed to social problems. Hence, the idea of employing refugees over foreign workers might be a worth a discussion.

“For them (refugees) to be in the country for a long time without employment, may create lots of problems, and this is exactly what is happening now,” he shared.

Citing figures from the UNHCR, Bardan pointed out that the country was providing shelter to 145,000 refugees. On that note, he further commented: “I would say that some flexibility should be introduced into the current policy so that we are not constantly importing foreign labour. In fact, we already have two million legal foreign workers here right now.”

Voicing out the possibility of opportunistic migrants abusing such policies, he said: "Strict employment policies are very important to ensure that we do not encourage opportunistic migrants to head here.”

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