STATEMENT: The need for a Comprehensive Policy for Migrant Workers during the Covid 19 Pandemic


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Last Updated April 24, 2020

There are at present 2 million documented migrant workers in Malaysia. The number of undocumented migrant workers are estimated to be 1.5 million to 4 million. [1]

Migrant Workers are one of the most vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by the Covid 19 Pandemic. Most of them have been left without employment, social and health security.

The lack of decent housing and accommodation prevents the implementation of proactive measurers which could further trigger the spread of the virus.

There are at present many barriers facing migrant workers to access the healthcare facilities. These barriers include access, costs, language, fear of arrest and detention.

The undocumented migrant workers face added vulnerabilities as they are deemed illegal and have no rights within the legal system. The undocumented migrant workers live in the shadow and margins of society with no legal rights whatsoever.

The present policy of the Government is to arrest and deport the undocumented workers. Further the existing policy requires doctors to report undocumented migrants seeking healthcare to police and immigration authorities.

The present policies and the existing barriers excluding migrants from access to healthcare threatens the health security of all.

The Government should embark on a policy:-

  1. That should not discriminate in providing health care access including for testing and treatment of Covid 19 for migrants regardless of their status without fear of arrest or detention.
  2. The Government should work with the Employers of migrant workers, missions of the Countries of Origin and Civil Society Organisations in reaching out to the migrant communities to ensure that they have the relevant information and access to the healthcare facilities.
  3. There should be a moratorium against the arrest and detention of migrants for immigration related offences during this Pandemic.
  4. That ensures the rights of migrant workers to salaries, wages and benefits are preserved and protected.
  5. That ensures compliance with all labour laws including laws pertaining to housing, accommodation, occupational safety and health including regulations and policies pertaining to Covid 19.
  6. That an Amnesty and Legalisation programme for undocumented migrant workers be put in place to overcome the issue of undocumented workers in Malaysia.


Dato’ Sri M. Ramachelvam

Deputy President


(National Human Rights Society)

[1] World Bank: Malaysia – Estimating the number of Foreign Workers

    Report No: AU 0000681

    A report from the Labour Market Data for Monetary Policy – March 28, 2019

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