Illegal migrant smuggling by locals a Covid-19 time bomb, warns Tiong

Dato Sri Tiong King Sing

KUCHING, July 31: Locals who aid illegal migrant smuggling without going through the quarantine process and compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) is a time bomb to more outbreaks of Covid-19, said Bintulu MP Dato’ Sri Tiong King Sing.

Tiong, who is also Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president, said it is alarming to know that there are locals who would stoop in colluding with migrant workers and their intermediaries to smuggle them in through various means like hiding in lorries, cold storage trucks, container lorries besides others (means) to enter the oil palm estates.

It is also known that the fees charged by these local intermediaries can run up more than RM2,000 per head, he said.

According to him, based on Bintulu Health Department confirmed case data, no fewer than five Indonesian workers have entered the district illegally without being tested properly first while there are no official entry and exit records for migrant workers who enter Sarawak through illegal means, via ‘jalan tikus’ (illegal trails).

“This makes it difficult for the Health Department to conduct contact tracing and arrange for isolation and testing of close contacts and it is a huge time bomb waiting to explode into more outbreaks,” he said in a statement today.

He noted, it is a disappointment that these local intermediaries and employers could bargain away the health and pandemic prevention of their country for selfish gains.

He said besides failing to conduct a two-week entry quarantine with two tests in accordance with the SOPs, their acts also violate immigration laws by illegally crossing the national border and so many districts all the way to Bintulu.

“Any party suspected of smuggling in illegal workers are subjected to Article 15 of the Anti-trafficking In Persons And Anti-smuggling Of Migrants Act 2007 while Article 6(1) of the Immigration Act 1959 provides for fines and imprisonment,” added Tiong.

Tiong pointed out that although the employers of these illegal workers have arranged for them to undergo Covid-19 screening before formally reporting for work, these employers failed to consider the number of people that their illegal workers could potentially have contacted throughout the smuggling process.

He opined this is incredibly irresponsible and shortsighted, as it would guarantee that Bintulu will not achieve the zero-confirmed-case goal.

“In the absence of official records, it is very difficult to determine how long these foreign workers have stayed in various places prior to Bintulu.

“We know that a few of the confirmed cases among the Indonesian migrant workers have spent a month in various districts before entering Bintulu. Just imagine how many people they have met during that time?

“How many of such illegal migrant workers are actually hiding in our communities and potentially causing silent outbreaks?,” questioned Tiong.

At the same time, Tiong reminded everyone to not be complacent by thinking that it is alright to also start bringing in more workers as the Health Department starts to vaccinate foreign workers.

“The drivers with a role in transporting smuggled migrant workers into the country must be reminded that vaccination does not mean immunity against any risk of infection. Infected vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to their wives, children and other people around them.

“Locals who help in bringing in migrant workers can read the news of what happens with victims of Covid-19. Even shipping containers are being turned into morgues. Do they want to be the next victims?,” he asked. — DayakDaily