Sunday, September 15, 2013
Malaysian employers need not look further than home for their foreign
maids. The refugee community in the country can provide a cheaper
alternative source, supplying possibly over 20,000 maids.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad
Fauzi Engku Muhsein said they plan to work with the United Nations High
Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) soon to come out with a win-win solution
for both employers and the refugees.
“The refugees need to work to support themselves here and we need manpower for domestic helpers,” Engku Ahmad pointed out.
“For employers, the main advantage will be cost. The refugees are
already in the country, so we can save on transportation and levy
There are currently about 104,070 refugees and asylum-seekers
registered with the UNHCR in the country, 30% of whom are women. More
than 90,000 are from Myanmar while the others are from Sri Lanka,
Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Engku Ahmad said tapping the refugee labour force was one option
Mama came up with after Indonesia announced it would stop supplying
maids to foreign countries in 2017. An estimated 35,000 Malaysian
households are currently on the waiting list for foreign maids.
“We hope to meet the UNHCR soon to discuss the proposal and if
acceptable, work out the mechanics, including the law, processing and
medical screening before proposing it to the relevant ministries,” he
In an immediate response, representatives from various refugee
communities in Malaysia welcomed Mama’s proposal, saying it would help
refugees who needed to support their families with a stable income.
The proposal is also seen as timely as Home Minister Datuk Seri
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi recently disclosed that the Immigration Department is
working with the UNHCR to devise plans on providing training and jobs
for refugees in the country. Currently, refugees recognised by the UNHCR
are only allowed to work on an unofficial basis by doing odd-jobs.
Commenting on the Government’s job training plan, UNHCR
representative in Malaysia Michele Manca di Nissa said: “We regard this
as a practical and pragmatic way of responding to the refugee situation
in Malaysia because there is a need for foreign labour and here are
refugees as a readily available source of labour. Unlike economic
migrants, refugees do not enjoy the protection of their home countries
and cannot return home or be deported.”
Engku Ahmad said Mama is willing to provide the training for domestic helpers with the cooperation of the UNHCR.
“We already have a ‘Helper’ programme to familiarise them with the Malaysian culture and language.”
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president
Jeffrey Foo said they are open to sourcing refugees as domestic workers
if the security issue is addressed.
“We need to study this carefully as they will be going into
Malaysian homes and working with our children. Their lack of official
status means that it will be difficult to take legal recourse if
anything goes wrong,” he said.
Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap)
president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan, said the move to hire refugees
would only temporarily resolve the maid shortage, and stressed the need
to re-negotiate with source countries like Indonesia and Cambodia.