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Foreign workers for agriculture not allowed to work in other sectors

BANGI: Stricter regulations will be imposed to prevent Malaysia from being accused of practicing forced labour and engaging in human trafficking activities, Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said.

The strict regulation on the entry of foreign workers is necessary as a measure to address emerging issues related to foreign workers, such as allegations of fraud, forced labour and human trafficking, he added. 

Johari also stressed that foreign workers meant for the agriculture industry are not allowed to work in other sectors.

The entry of foreign workers into the agriculture industry is specifically to work on farms, and entry into other sectors is not permitted, he said at a press conference during the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) Excellence Awards 2023 in Bangi today. 

He said those bringing in foreign workers must ensure suitable and adequate accommodation is provided for them. 

“On the issue of plantation workers, I have been informed by the Minister of Home Affairs, who had a meeting with the Minister of Human Resources. 

“Both ministries have agreed that foreign workers, except for those in agriculture, will no longer be allowed to enter. That’s the information I received. 

“However, for the agricultural industry, it remains open. We want to ensure that every company operating palm oil plantations, especially those under the Ministry of Agriculture and Commodities, meets specific requirements for foreign workers working on the farm.  

“We aim to ensure that any party bringing in foreign workers provides proper and adequate accomodation. We do not want foreign workers to be perceived as residing in conditions that could lead to accusations of forced labour,” he added.

The minister also stressed that if a company brings foreign workers into the country and there’s no work for them, the person who brought them in still has to pay their wages. 

According to Johari, Malaysia needs about 40,000 foreign workers for the agricultural industry as of December 2023. 

However, he mentioned being informed that hiring in other sectors has been halted, except for agriculture. 

“Therefore, any companies that are involved in hiring foreign workers must submit an application to the Ministry of Human Resources, whose jurisdiction is also accompanied by our ministry.  

“Before approval, our ministry will verify the application because we have certain benchmarks and calculations based on the farm’s size, the location of the farm, the existing workforce, and how many more workers they need,” he noted. 

Meanwhile, Johari said workers need to be informed about their actual job during the interview session and should not involve loans to come to this country, so any agents committing this mistake will face consequences. 

“Issues like these need to be addressed from time to time because indirectly, the plantation industry will receive foreign workers genuinely interested in working in this sector and not those working in other sectors. 

“This is also to maintain the country’s image, ensuring that it is not categorised as a nation involved in emerging issues like alleged human trafficking or forced labour, which could lead to our products being restricted from being exported,” he said.


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