May I have a decent immigration policy, please?

May I have a decent immigration policy, please? 

Excerpts from  Hizami‘s article

It’s long been apparent that a vicious undercurrent of xenophobia runs through Malaysian society,

  1. cheerfully whipped up by the mainstream press, and

  2. championed by a worrying spectrum of individuals. 

  3. Remember the panicky TV3 reports on ‘immigrants’ flooding KLCC during public holidays, and

  4. Wong Chun Wai’s editorial on how ‘uncomfortable’ it was to see so many foreigners (the wrong sort – Whites are perfectly fine) around town?

  5. The obligatory newspaper reports connecting ‘illegals’ to the most recent crime?

  6. The seemingly endless trail of abuse left by Rela and over-zealous police officers towards foreigners?

  7. The off-hand way we shut illegal immigrants up in appalling detention camps, and

  8. dismiss any notion that when they ‘riot’, it might be because we treat them little better than dirt?

  9. Or the casual racism which can be found everywhere, from the blasting of tall, dark Africans on Petaling Street, to the perennial notion that

  10. we should be helping our ‘own’ poor, not filthy Burmese or Indonesian illegals.

I have never understood how any Muslim can reconcile racism with their religious faith.

I would like to talk about xenophobia and migration,

  1. incredibly unhappy about the way Malaysia approaches its migrants.

  2. Migration policy isn’t easy. Every country which is better off than others will have to grapple with immigration. And no one does it perfectly either.

  3. The US has hang-ups over Latinos; the UK has hang-ups over everyone, apparently; Australia has hang-ups over their ‘boat people’; and Europe as a whole has hang-ups over Muslims.

  4. But that’s no excuse for us to not try and do right by those who come to our country looking for a better life.

  5. And I would submit that there are a few crucial points we have to flag up to reform our new Immigration policy, that will form the basis for any policy we eventually come up with.

  6. The first is the illegitimacy of bigotry, and remembering our common humanity.

  7. We sometimes speak of ‘illegals’ almost as if they were sub-human. They’re not.

  8. Immigrants, whether illegal or otherwise, are as human as you and I.

  9. We’re not any superior to them – any one who dares to talk about ‘cultural superiority’ should remember that all these immigrants are descendants of civilisations at least as great as our own, if not even greater.

  10. Immigration policy cannot be coloured by notions that ‘we’ are any better than ‘them’.

  11. We have to treat our fellow human beings decently.

  12. That has implications, from making sure that our detention centres are humane,

  13. and that anyone we detain there can be repatriated in a very short time;

  14. to ending once and for all the legacy of abuse towards immigrants detained during raids.

  15. Being decent means no more dilly-dallying – we have to ratify the Refugee Convention NOW.

  16. Those fleeing from persecution in their homelands should never simply classified as ‘illegal immigrants’ and deported post-haste.

  17. If we can take them, and keep them safe, we should.

  18. If we can’t, we need to be part of an international system to make sure they get somewhere where they can be safe. This is basic decency.

  19. Decency and sense also means examining our economic treatment of immigrants.

  20. It’s an open secret that immigrants are paid less than local workers, and don’t get benefits. This is a travesty. This is why they don’t want minimum wage legislation. This is unacceptable. They contribute just as much to our economy, and we want to pay them less?

  21. I don’t know how much crime is really committed by immigrants, and how much of it is just moral panic whipped up by an unscrupulous Press.

  22. But whatever the level is, I would submit that just as it is with crime committed by Malaysians, crime is a function of deprivation.

  23. It wouldn’t surprise me that some immigrants are driven to crime – just like our own poor, deprivation will lead to crime.

  24. We also need to deal with the poverty that drives people to crime anyway.

  25. And it means if we want to get serious about crime, we have to tackle deprivation, and that includes the ghettos that immigrants live in at the moment.

  26. Appalling living conditions, lack of basic infrastructure, lack of integration into the wider community, these are all problems of deprivation that need to be tackled.

  27. We have to proceed from the premise that immigrants who are either here by reason of persecution, or have come here to contribute to our economy, deserve a basic standard of life equal to our own.

  28. That means that we need to provide the infrastructure. And we should accept as many immigrants not just as we need, but also as many as we can support.

  29. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. We can’t keep relying on cheap foreign labour to support the economy by the back door – if they’re helping us, we have to help back.

  30. Economies have traditionally depended on less well-treated foreign labour.

  31. Malaysians deserve a guaranteed basic standard of life. But so do our immigrants.

And we also have to recognise that some of these immigrants will also become Malaysians. That’s how a country grows.

Instead of living in denial, we should structure a proper policy, taking into account both immigrants who intend to stay here in the long term, and who should be integrated as Malaysians, and those who are just staying here for a while, who should get the same decent treatment we seek to extend to our own citizens as well.

I don’t think we have that sort of policy yet. It’s time we started asking the hard questions, and taking a long, hard look at our economy, our resources, our long-term needs, and structuring a policy revolving around both our economic needs, and our obligation of common humanity. Nothing less will suffice.

The dream remains one of a decent life for all the residents of this nation (and the world, too), Malaysians and visitors alike.

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