On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Raise the red flag

Tighter controls need to be in place to stop foreigners from flying into Malaysia and ‘becoming citizens on arrival’.

IT is alarming. If anyone tells me this is not serious, then he should really have his head examined. And it doesn’t matter who he is.

Two security guards who had committed robberies over the past week, with the first incident resulting in the death of a bank worker, were holding fake Malaysian identity cards.

Now, if they had not turned into criminals, are we supposed to assume they would have happily passed themselves off as Malaysians and we would also have happily accepted them as our fellow countrymen?

Worse, would these foreigners with their MyKad in hand be able to register themselves as voters and take part in the general election?

Most of us have short memory spans, this writer included.

We would have forgotten that in June this year, the Immigration Department discovered that 307 people who were among 1,054 Myanmar nationals rounded up in an operation had fake United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Malaysia cards and documents.

The department’s Kuala Lumpur enforcement chief James Musa Singa said his officers would interview them to ascertain the source of the forged documents.

“We want to know who are involved. Investigations are still in the early stages, I can’t say more.

“The findings will be forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers in two weeks,” he said, adding that the matter would come under the Criminal Procedure Code.

In another report, 1,000 Myanmar nationals were picked up by a police task force following clashes here between Myanmar Muslims and their Buddhist counterparts.

It was found that 196 of them did not have proper documents while 57 held fake UNHCR Malaysia cards.

I may have missed the follow-ups but I am sure many Malaysians would want to know the outcome of the investigations, if there were any. How did these foreigners manage to get the fake UNHCR Malaysia cards and documents? Have any individuals or groups been arrested or at least come under investigation for providing these foreigners with the documents? How long have they stayed here, how did they enter the country and, more importantly, how many are passing themselves off as refugees?

Here are some facts taken from the UNHCR website.

As of end September 2013, there are some 115,819 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia.

Of these, 107,110 are from Myanmar, comprising some 38,445 Chins, 31,225 Rohingyas, 10,992 Myanmar Muslims, 7,926 Rakhine, 3,601 Burmese and Bamars, 3,593 Mon, 3,343 Kachins, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

There are also some 8,709 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 3,629 Sri Lankans, 1,136 Somalis, 795 Iraqis, 372 Afghans, and others from other countries.

The website said that some 70% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men and 30% are women. There are some 26,226 children below the age of 18.

“There are also a large number of persons of concern to UNHCR who remain unregistered. As part of UNHCR’s ongoing data-gathering and analysis, UNHCR believes that there are some 49,000 unregistered asylum-seekers, who UNHCR is progressively working to register,” said the website.

What about foreign workers in Malaysia? In July this year, Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Ismail Abd Muttalib was quoted as saying that as of Aug 31, 2012, there were 1.3 million illegal immigrants in the country and another 1.5 million have the Temporary Working Visiting Pass (PLKS), according to the Immigration Department.

The perception, if you were to ask most Malaysians, is that there are probably more illegal foreign workers in Malaysia than the official figures. The estimates have been between two and five million, depending on which report you read.

For sure, these foreign workers have overtaken the Indian community as the third largest ethnic group in the country.

How we wish we have two million of the best foreign scientists, financiers, physicists, engineers and academics but, unfortunately, we have taken in the lowest of the lot. Singapore seems to have taken in the brains as far as foreign workers are concerned. We know our leaders hate the comparison but that is a fact.

But we also need to acknowledge that while we whine and grumble over the huge presence of these foreigners, we also need them.

The reality is that the country has become dependent on foreign workers in the manufacturing, construction and agricultural sectors. We cannot run our homes without foreign maids, even if we are just living in a two-room apartment.

We can’t iron our own clothes, we do not want to clean our toilets and our children depend entirely on “Kak” to do everything for them. To the point that when our children are studying overseas, many want to come back home, not because they want to serve the country but because life in Malaysia is too good. That includes the Indonesian maids they miss.

Many of us have become addicted to, not dependent on, foreign workers, especially foreign maids. There is probably no other country in the world where their Prime Minister has to ask his counterparts in the Asean countries whether more of their citizens would come to Malaysia to work as maids. Seriously.

Well, maybe the Singapore Prime Minister might, too.

Each time we read about these foreigners with fake documents, we are riled up – and rightly so. But really, we need to cut down on the need for these foreigners. As long as the demand is high, the “entrepreneurial” people will find all sorts of creative ways to meet the supply, legal or otherwise.

We can stomach the need for foreign security guards in malls, residential properties and offices but we really need to raise the red flag when they are patrolling our government offices. Surely, it is disturbing that we are surrendering the care of our strategic offices to these foreigners.

We have done a lousy job in checking on their backgrounds.

That aside, there are already too many foreign workers walking around our airports, another key area where security is of the highest priority.

We seem to have lost control and our enforcement seems compromised. It is time we take a hard look at the situation and re-think. The country’s security cannot be taken for granted.

We certainly do not want foreigners to fly into Malaysia and think “Now everyone can become Malaysians” on arrival.