PUTRAJAYA 2011/08/03: The biometric registration of legal foreign workers slowed down considerably the minute the deadline extension was announced.
Immigration Department offices saw at least a 50 per cent drop in the number of registrations after the Home Ministry made the announcement on Friday.
The ministry had set July 31 as the deadline for the registration of 1.2 million foreign workers in the peninsula.
Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said even though the ministry had experienced a similar situation with the settling of police summonses earlier this year, it had to make the same decision this time as the goal was to register all foreign workers in the country.
"If I had not moved the deadline back, some political parties would have accused the government of being heartless.
"However, I agree that if we keep doing this, people will not take deadlines set by the government seriously. Ultimately, I will have to bear the brunt and bite the bullet," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said the department had recorded the biometric data of about 800,000 legal foreign workers.
He added that he was confident the registration could be completed by next week.
The system records information on workers' workplaces, employers and salaries to reduce social issues and crimes related to legal foreign workers.
It is also hoped that the registration will tackle the problem of legal foreign workers who dump their papers and run away from employers to seek other jobs.
Hishammuddin said the cabinet yesterday had been roped in to ensure that any problem surrounding the massive legalisation and amnesty exercise, dubbed 6P, was quickly resolved.
He acknowledged that operational problems had arisen during the registration.
He said the department would address them and that it would hold the company behind the system responsible for fixing the problems.
Hishammuddin said the military, Rela and village security and development committee members would be mobilised to weed out illegal foreigners who failed to register themselves.
This, said Hishammuddin, was because the ministry needed people on the ground to carry out the enforcement.
On what would come after the registration, he said the workers would be matched to different sectors with the help of the Human Resources Ministry.
Illegal foreign workers who registered could choose to remain with their employers, he added.
On complaints that companies helping with the 6P programme were not making money, as the department was now open round the clock, he said the programme was of national security interest and nothing else mattered.
"They can still make a decent profit but, of course, not billions like what we saw under the outsourcing initiative.
"However, they can choose to withdraw as there are hundreds (companies) more willing to do it."
He said more than 15,000 illegal foreigners had registered under the programme as of yesterday.
The programme comprises registration, legalisation, amnesty, supervision, enforcement and deportation.
There are an estimated two million illegal foreign workers in the country.