Migrant workers ‘dorms’ in Penang spark concern


Taking a leaf from what is happening in Singapore, Penang too is planning foreign workers villages/dormitories in Bukit Tambun, Permatang Tinggi, Juru, Batu Maung and Bukit Minyak.

These ‘dorms’ – multi-storey buildings or towers – could house as many as 5,000-6,000 foreign workers at each site.

Although the dorms would be equipped with various amenities, what is worrying is the idea of accommodating foreign workers in specific locations, out of sight of local residents. This is pandering to local residents’ prejudice towards migrant workers in their neighbourhoods or apartment blocks.

What’s more, Bukit Tambun residents have even objected to the location of one such foreign workers dorm in that area!

There is even a reported plan for internal patrolling and a biometric system to monitor the workers’ movements at these dorms. What? Why are foreign workers going to be treated like this?

And a no alcohol ruling in the dorms means workers can’t even have a beer in their private space? Would we tolerate such rulings in our own homes?

Are these dorms going to be a voluntary option for workers accommodation? If such dorms are not a voluntary option, woudn’t this amount to segregation?

It seems that we need foreign workers, but we would rather keep them out of sight, segregated in barracks ‘dorms’.

Feeling disturbed by such segregation, scientist and researcher Mary Chin has written a thought-provoking piece that has been published by Aliran. She says:

Outside paid hours, workers should be free to go wherever they like. Biometric-tagging to restrict and monitor their movement is completely unacceptable. Penangites should reject this at all costs. Such an idea dishonours ourselves first, before it gets to dishonour its prey.

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  1. When cries in cramped quarters fall on deaf ears

    The recent crackdown on undocumented immigrant workers finally brings the spotlight to the “elephant in the room”.

    It exposes the squalid conditions that workers are put in and more so, the greed of many employers.

    In the Klang Valley, accommodation for foreign workers in the construction sector is generally called kongsi because most of them are ramshackle sheds where dozens of workers are crammed in while proper bathrooms and kitchens are luxuries.

    While in other sectors, foreign workers are squeezed into small residential units and share the space on a rotation basis, depending on their work shift.

    It is a shame that such blatant violation of human rights is prevalent, and that unscrupulous employers can get away with doing this all the time.

  2. Janice and Tully, ‘those shanty towns’ — that’s the wrong baseline, the wrong reference. Get it?

  3. Broken dreams – the plight of Forest City’s migrant workers


    Lured by the promise of attractive wages, hundreds of Chinese nationals forked out their savings or borrowed money to pay the agents recruiting workers for the Forest City project in Johor.

    Entering Malaysia with social visit passes, the workers however were forced to return home after learning that they might have to work illegally, or be paid much less than anticipated.

    For the past two months, some were stranded at the Senai airport, others on the streets, while waiting for their next flight back to China.

    • china developers also bring in their own subcontractors besides construction workers to johore.
      the projects unlikely to benefit local contractors. no ali baba system in practice for Umno category senang diri subcontractors.

  4. Malaysian employers who hire foreign workers must show proof that they can provide satisfactory housing for them. If an employer cannot provide proof of adequate housing for the foreign workers, the Immigration Department will not approve the employer’s application for foreign workers. This requirement is an attempt to halt the proliferation of squatter settlements in Malaysia.

    • PEMUDA Pakatan Harapan berjanji akan mengurangkan jumlah pekerja asing yang berjumlah lebih enam juta sekarang kepada 2.5 juta dalam tempoh lima tahun selepas memenangi Pilihan Raya Umum Ke-14 (PRU-14).

      Ketua Armada Bersatu Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman berkata kebanjiran pekerja asing dilihat sebagai isu kritikal memandangkan mereka dianggap mengancam peluang pekerjaan rakyat Malaysia.

      Malah data dikeluarkan Jabatan Perangkaan Negara mendapati yang jumlah warga asing yang berdaftar pada 2014 ialah 2.1 juta orang dan telah meningkat kepada 3.3 juta orang pada 2016.

      “Ia bersamaan dengan peningkatan seramai 1.2 juta orang dalam tempoh dua tahun.

  5. The regulations for employees are always just vague, unpublicised, expensive or difficult enough to be out of reach. You are forced to go through the cronies, “selesai” or close shop. There are whole industries operating illegally for decades, and almost every other shop has foreign workers who seem far too expensive for the scale of business. Foreigners make up about 40% of the work force, and remit billions of RM abroad every month. There are no provisions for their accomodation, health, transport, complaints (on enforers, wages, etc.)… The supposed health checks are (allegedly) fraudulent, as seen from the spread of medicine-resistent TB. Each year, citizens learn of yet another “special” task force, security department or purchase (of ships, planes, helicopters, trucks, ID cards, detention centres, etc.). The smugglers and terrorists come and go as they have for decades. This is Bolehland.

  6. 1 in 3 in Penang involve in money game, and can be inclusive of many migrant workers as well.

    R… and C.. money gamers are expected to follow same fate as JJPTR. If your migrant workers are involved, better help them to pull out to redeem some cash before they are gone. Mary Chin can help them?

  7. What is the optimum number of migrants? That’s a separate topic. Whether 10 thousand or 10 million, the point here is we either integrate them to the local community, or do not take them in — they should not be segregated. Now, back to the separate topic. Do Malaysians want a closed-door policy? Eject all migrants and summon back all Malaysian workers overseas? Global migration is generally healthy and the benefit is generally mutual. We are citizens of the earth. Migration is part of the world order throughout history; in fact that is how many countries made their country, including Canada, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. My sisters and I are grandchildren of migrant workers. I wouldn’t say our grandparents made a wrong choice or that our grandparents made Malaysia a worse country. My sister has been working in Singapore >30 years. No, she has never lived in any dorm and she has never been tagged. Myself a migrant worker on multiple counts, probably more migrant than any of the migrants we are talking about. I was migrant worker in Wales, England, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Canada — my employers treated me like a gem, there is no question whether I contributed positively or not. I have never stayed in any dorm and my movements were neither monitored nor constrained.

    • Malaysia has become heavily — some would say dangerously — reliant on cheap migrant labour from other Asian countries. Critics say that relying on cheap foreign labour depresses local wages and reduces the incentives for businesses to become more innovative (automation?) and productive (business process improvement?)

    • Making said locals should be hired instead of foreign labour. His deputy said by 2050(wawasan tn50) half of Malaysians will have at least diploma qualification.

  8. To get own foreign workers permits likes almost impossible although the critiria met.Just for 2 workers i need to pay middle man around 10k.Thats excludng cost of travelling,hotel and agents fees in their homes country.I need highly trained or exprience workers which almost imposible to get in Malaysia but UMNO always gives permits to illegals under amnesty program which is no use for me.
    Sometimes i pay a agent to get a permits outsouce from their companies and burnt the $$$ since its a fraud.

    Dorms? If the boss is a good they will provide a good accommodations.Good workers always an asset for the company but since big companies can get 100s of permits and once their job completed the same workers become illegals since big companies can always get illegals to works for them under protection.I even can name the companies who hire illegals buy hundreds or the places the illegals migrants workers stays.

    rajraman. Who says legals foreign workers is cheap? They are more expensive than local workers who don’t want to works.Who want to hire locals who don’t want to dirty their hands, rains and torching sun.I works in this situation.The Political Traders makes $$$.

      • MyEg ?
        It’s not mine but UMNOEg and cronies.

        rajraman.Another stupid things is goverment control CLAP.They will apply for you under CLAP name and charge.The workers allows to work for you maximum 3 years.After that send them back although you are happy and the workers are happy to works together.

        The Police Man don’t even know what’s CLAB or pretend not to know …

        $$$ had to (allegedly) change hand.

        Skill workers don’t like harrasment.They rather goes homes.To make the workers happy $$$ (allegedly) change hand.

        The Police Man will (allegedly) catch the prey during long Public Holidays where CLAB is closed as Immigration department closed.

      • alledgedly?No,i have personally done it.
        rajraman.Allegic to UMNO and Politicals Traders expecially Ramasamy and MIC as Indian Malaysian.

  9. This proposal is a few months old – perhaps mentioned on this blog. It is another example of double-think. The same people who park luxury cars illegally and block others rather that pay for parking exploit and ill-treat foreigners, yet demand they remain obedient and law-abiding. They also worship whites who con them easily. Cronies can use illegals for gomen projects, but desperate businesses and households trying to get legal workers face great obstacles. Tens of thousands of ICs are supposedly uncollected, but were those concerned notified even after taking down phone numbers?

    MTUC’s original demand, which would have obviated most of the related problems, was that foreigers also be union members.

    I wonder how much the crony agents are making a year, whether they are paying all the income tax due, and how much goes towards financing politics. All the pious talk of reforming such finance has died down.

  10. Seberang Perai now forbids migrant workers to prepare, help and serve street food.

    It’s good start.

    Should extend to the island such policy.

    Mamak chain typically hires 12 migrant workers per shop (inclusive cashier) – should reduce the quantity by hiring locals instead.

    Mary Chin should focus her work on overcoming nation over-dependence on migrant staffs.

  11. Indeed! Singapore and all around the world we have Malaysian workers there, many of whom are either ourselves, our close relatives or friends. Are dorms and biometrics the best solution so that their bosses won’t exploit them? By living together as a group in isolated dorms, Malaysian workers would be able to exert more pressure and authorities would be able to monitor them better?

    • A Straits Times reporter’s “taste of life in an ‘HDB-style’ dorm for workers” in Singapore:

      Singapore’s 1st Integrated Foreign Workers’ Dormitory

      • Yes to convenience. No to segregation. Even if we give them palaces to live in, the concept of segregating them from the rest of the community is fundamentally wrong. Gyms and convenience stores are good and convenient; such are the things which can’t wait till the weekend. Gyms and convenience stores are typical of campus life; fresh meat and 3D cinemas are not. Suggest 3D cinemas on campus, anyone would exclaim, “Why on earth would we want one on campus? We go out for movies and have great fun!” Those who have experienced campus life would understand that need to be out and about, and the depressing feeling when one doesn’t, and nothing can substitute or compensate for this.

        Is the purpose of the project to provide convenience and protection, or to segregate? What are we talking about?
        7 Jan 2017
        State housing exco Jagdeep Singh Deo said,
        – “… to address complaints about them roaming around their neighbourhoods in their underwear, drinking alcohol, quarrelling and fighting among themselves.”

        – “… complaints of social problems by Malaysians after foreign workers rented homes in their neighbourhoods.”

        – the dormitories would be self-sufficient, reducing the workers’ need to go out to run errands, which could possibly help to prevent the rise in social ills …

        8 Jan 2017
        State Housing, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said,
        – The state viewed seriously the social problems that arose as a result of foreign workers living in local housing schemes.

        ~ “I have received numerous complaints from local residents about these social ills which include indulging in illicit activities such as alcohol consumption which have resulted in arguments and fights among themselves.”

    • I’d rather be objective:
      #1 A friend who worked with migrant workers in KL says workers are transported the same way as I describe for Penang but still, they prefer M’sia over Singapore, they say M’sia treats workers better.
      #2 ‘Yahoo Singapore spoke to a few workers and all of them said they love…’
      #3 Presented with any medicine which has been tested on a few patients, I will neither consume nor recommend.
      #4 I use Rapid Penang. Friends tell me to be careful with foreign workers. Well, I don’t need to be careful with them. They are already too careful with me — so cautious not to get into trouble, shrinking into themselves.

      Common to all four points is limited sampling. As in #3, there is no statistics in #1 and #2. #1 and #2 are not studies. We can’t conclude and based on that, run projects of such a grand scale. From #4 we can readily understand why some workers choose to avoid exposure to the outside world.

      • “they prefer M’sia over Singapore, they say M’sia treats workers better”.

        They are mostly Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indonesia and will find Malaysia an Islamic country more comfortable, and they can marry bumi ladies and get PR/citizenship along the way.

        I also use public bus and see no issue sharing it with migrant workers.

    • Singapore has higher and stringent criteria for skilled foreign workers, but pays higher (S$ after all). Those fail to get to Singapore are likely less skilled and come to Malaysia.

      Singapore authority keep close eye on foreign workers as evident in evicting those Bangladeshi workers said to be planning militant activities. Is this not good for the security of a nation? I fear that Malaysia is rather relax on such security matter thinking that those Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers as abang adik due to their religious affiliations.

      Also all foreign workers in Singapore are given limited contract, no opportunity for them to stay long term and think about marrying the locals. In Singapore marrying a minor is not allowed but possible in Malaysia, thus certain foreign workers see that as an opportunity to settle long term in Malaysia?

      Also better to house these workers in dorm as it is unlikely that they could afford renting homes in our estate to integrate with locals. Better to have dorm for them than having them living like squatters in illegally created wooden home on the fringe of the forests, causing hygiene and environmental issues.

  12. Cut down employing migrant workers then we will not face such concern.
    Provide more employment opportunities to the locals.

  13. Mary Chin is wrong. The foreign workers should be housed in such dorm so that their bosses would not exploit them. Also, as a group living together the workers can exert more pressure to their bosses to provide proper living conditions. Also the authority could monitor easily the workers and their bosses so that there is no mistreatment.

  14. Such dorm will provide better living conditions for the workers, it does not mean the workers are banned from going elsewhere for leisure or social meetings. Not sure if Mary Chin has visited such dorms in Singapore before provoking others with her research.

      • In Malaysia, those employers hiring foreign workers are never held accountable if the workers gone missing over job dispute or end of contract. Biometric is one way to allow traceability: to charge those irresponsible employers, or if these foreign workers somehow obtain illegal MyKads.

        Anyway the best solution is to reduce intake of foreign workers since there are sizable unemployed Malaysians. Just increase the levy for migrant workers and the employers will increase pay for locals.

      • Malaysia is planning to introduce a biometric tracking system to locate foreigners that overstay their visas. The Malaysian government is concerned about foreigners that misuse visas and stay on to work illegally, often in the vice trade. The system would use biometric data that is recorded upon entry to the country. The information would allow the government to locate foreigners who may be in the country illegally when they open bank accounts or check into hotels using their passports.

      • Each time I enter US I give not a thumb or two for biometrics, but every single finger, all ten. That is immigration. The requirement applies to everyone, including tourists and big guns giving plenary/keynote speeches at top conferences.

        January 7, 2017
        Jagdeep said there must also be internal patrolling, security booths, qualified security guards, and a biometric system to monitor the workers’ movements.

        Is that immigration?


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