GEORGE TOWN: Human rights group Aliran has called for a review of the treatment of foreign workers in view of the emergence of clusters of Covid-19 infection among them.
It claimed that there have been many attempts to demonise them, especially those who are undocumented.
It said “inflammatory content” in some news articles could incite Malaysians to act against those whom they think have no place in the country.
“Such xenophobia and bullying can have serious consequences on people’s lives,” it said.
A report from the Health Ministry stated that as of May 16, of the 26,000 migrant workers screened for Covid-19, a total of 1,302 of them tested positive. This, Aliran said, raised concerns about their working and living conditions.
It said there were claims that foreigners had pinched jobs from locals, that they threaten the safety of Malaysians and they do not bother about cleanliness, thereby contributing to the spread of the infection.
In a statement issued today, Aliran said what was more important was for the authorities to ensure that foreign workers are housed in proper living conditions.
“Employers and recruitment agencies must ensure that they are not housed in cramped spaces that make it impossible for them to practise social distancing.
It also pointed out that foreigners face difficulty in gaining access to affordable healthcare given that they have to pay more than locals even at public hospitals.
“Access to justice for the vast majority of these people caught in human trafficking or exploitative situations is difficult,” it said.
Aliran said the authorities must be rational and balanced it their approached to tackling the issue of undocumented workers.
“There is no room for regressive and hate-fuelled propaganda to score points or flex muscles as a show of power,” it added.