GEORGE TOWN: A Penang lawmaker has called for stiffer penalties against property owners who cram as many foreign workers as they can into one residential unit. Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said the six months prison sentence and RM2,000 fine provided for overcrowding under the Local Government Act 1976 was insufficient. She described the present penalty as a slap on the wrist and urged for higher penalties to be passed. Yap said the Act considered a residential unit as overcrowded if there was less than 32 sq m of internal space for every adult in the unit. She added overcrowding led to social and hygiene problems as those staying in cramped living quarters had less personal space and had to share only one or two toilets. "When 15 to 20 persons are living in the same area, how can there be enough sewage, garbage disposal and washing facilities in the house? "This leads to poor living conditions like smelly clothing drying outside their area and rubbish discarded carelessly," she said in a press conference today. According to Immigration Department statistics, Yap said, there were some 2.1 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia and most of them were employed in the manufacturing and construction sectors. There are more than 100,000 of them currently staying in Penang. "This means that seven out of every 100 residents in the state are foreigners. They are part of the workforce and proper social care, like adequate housing, should be provided for them," she added.