This morning, as I was preparing to distribute food aid to PJ Old Town residents under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO), I notice that Immigration officers and their trucks had gathered at the area. It seems like the authorities are planning to raid and clear the area of undocumented migrants and refugees.

Despite criticism by human rights groups over their treatment of migrants, the Government continues to use Covid-19 as an excuse to crack down on immigration. Over the last month, we have seen the authorities use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to rush the removal of migrant communities including children from foreign worker enclaves in Jalan Masjid India (1 May) and the KL Wholesale Market (11 May).

The prejudice and discrimination that they are facing is totally unacceptable. No one should be faced with such indignity especially at a time of crises like this. These migrants have been struggling during the MCO, being left stranded because they are unable to earn a living during this time and unlike Malaysians, do not qualify for any of the Government welfare schemes.

Many of the migrants in Old Town work at the Jalan Othman Market and with petty traders in and around PJ. There must be some procedure to evaluate the immigration status of each of them and to consider giving them proper documentation to allow them to continue working. Many traders still need their assistance and getting rid of migrants will only hurt them economically.

It is unfortunate and regrettable that the authorities are still choosing to round up migrants in Old Town although I have spoken against such violations of rights.

It is a huge mistake to detain migrants during the pandemic as it makes tracing the spread of the Covid-19 virus harder. There is extreme fear within migrant communities to come forward for testing because of the large number of migrants being arrested.

Attempts of foreigners trying to escape authorities had already been reported in the Pudu Market area earlier and surely more would have evaded authorities out of fear.

I also question the Government’s plan to go after migrant communities. Migrants played a key economic role in our economy for many years and we should not simply be rounding them off and deporting them now without clear policy. What will happen to the employment gaps that they leave behind in our economy?

The Government can only solve the immigration problem if they look at the root causes of undocumented workers in Malaysia. Many undocumented migrants do enter Malaysia through legal means but face significant hurdles in the process of renewing their work permits. There must be an effort made to repair the system which is being tarnished either through corruption at the ground level or being deceived by agents and employers due to the lack of accountability and transparency in rehiring migrants.

Simply removing migrants is not a solution and does not equal more employment opportunities for Malaysians.