Malaysia’s Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has assured undocumented migrants in Malaysia that they will not be detained if they come forward for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Speaking at a press conference earlier on Wednesday (17 Feb), Khairy said that the COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) will work with the foreign ministry as well as civil society to reach out to undocumented migrants.
“Foreign embassies, international organisations, civil society, NGOs can assist the government on how to get undocumented foreigners to come out to get vaccinated, with the assurance that the authorities will detain them,” he said.
Khairy opined that it is most important to let them know that they will not be apprehended so that they would come forward freely and be confident to get vaccinated.
For documented migrant workers, Khairy said the Home Ministry will work together with Human Resources Ministry to reach out to them.
“We will also be in contact with their employers and get their details so that we can make appointments for the workers to ensure efficiency in getting them vaccinated,” said the minister.
Democratic Action Party (DAP) Youth leader, Chiong Yoke Kong proposed in response to Khairy’s statement that the government should legalise undocumented migrant workers during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Free Malaysia Today reported Chiang as saying that this measure “will fundamentally solve the problems related to foreign workers in various aspects, including our public health system that is increasingly being strained by the pandemic”.
“Khairy’s verbal assurance may not be able to convince all undocumented foreign workers and their employers to get vaccinated, as some still have concerns over the government’s empty promises,” Chiong said.
Chiang suggested that the government should “launch a legalisation scheme that aims at simplifying various procedures for reregistration and establishing a database for undocumented foreign workers”.
On Facebook, netizens questioned why the government should “unnecessarily waste taxpayers’ money” to get undocumented migrant workers vaccinated.
Several other netizens said that it should be the “responsibility of those foreign workers’ embassies” to get them vaccinated, and these people should be sent back to their home countries.
However, a number of netizens said that the government’s effort to vaccinate undocumented migrant workers is crucial, as it will enable herd immunity to be achieved as soon as possible.
They said that undocumented workers who are not vaccinated will carry the virus with them, and pose the risk of creating new clusters if any of them were to be infected with COVID-19.