Brace for Malaysia crackdown, OFWs warned

Paterno Esmaquel II
Based on government estimates, the crackdown will affect 6 out of 10 Filipinos in Malaysia

MALAYSIA'S CRACKDOWN. Suspected illegal foreign workers are arrested by Malaysian law enforcement officers during a raid in Klang outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sept 1, 2013. File photo by Ahmad Yusni/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines warned its nationals on Thursday, January 16, to prepare for Malaysia’s crackdown on undocumented foreigners beginning Tuesday next week, January 21, which is likely to affect most Filipinos there.

“We would like to remind our nationals to make sure that their immigration or work documents are in order, and to carry with them proper documents, notably work permit or passport with valid visa, to avoid inconvenience in case of immigration checks,” Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J Eduardo Malaya said in a statement.

Malaya also requested employers and agents of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) “to hand over any passport and other identification documents” to their employees. This will ensure the Filipinos’ safety.

He warned illegal Filipino workers: Return to the Philippines immediately. He said Malaysia will not prosecute but only fine those who leave voluntarily.

The embassy said Malaysia will detain violators while arranging their deportation. To make sure they can’t return to Malaysia using fake identity, authorities will get their biometric fingerprints.

In its latest estimate, the Commission of Overseas Filipinos (CFO) pegs the number of undocumented, illegally employed, and overstaying Filipino nationals in Malaysia at 200,000 as of December 2010. It pegs the number of Filipinos in Malaysia at 316,273.

Most Filipino workers

If this estimate is to be followed, the crackdown stands to affect 6 out of 10 Filipinos in Malaysia.

Malaysia has the highest concentration of irregular Filipino workers around the world, according to the CFO. It is followed by the United States, which has 156,000 irregular Filipino workers.

The Malaysian Home Ministry targets these workers in its crackdown called the “Ops Bersepadu,” the embassy said. It announced this program last January 10.

The crackdown is expected to hit nationals from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, according to the embassy.

Irregular Filipino workers thrive in the rest of the world, making up around 704,916 of the global workforce. The government estimates 9,452,984 Filipino workers around the globe.

Undocumented Filipinos comprise 8% of OFWs. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at