Monday, June 22, 2009

Return of diseases linked to foreign workers - Star(22/6/2009)

Monday June 22, 2009

Return of diseases linked to foreign workers

PUTRAJAYA: Infectious diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy which almost disappeared in Malaysia since two decades ago have made a comeback and this can be traced to the millions of foreign workers and illegal immigrants in the country.

There were 16,325 confirmed cases of tuberculosis (14,275 Malaysians and 2,050 foreigners) last year, second only to dengue fever with 17,047 confirmed cases.

Of the 152 confirmed leprosy cases last year, 99 were Malaysians and 53 foreigners.

The two diseases are among the 27 infectious diseases in the Health Ministry’s radar.

Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the rising incidence of tuberculosis could be attributed to, among others, foreign workers and illegal immigrants.

“A total of 10,517 foreign workers failed to get their work permits last year because they had tuberculosis. They made up 28% of the 37,503 who were declared unfit for work permits that year,” Liow told The Star.

But what worries him is the estimated one million or more illegal immigrants – often referred to as “illegal foreign workers” – in the country.

“What we (ministry) are concerned about are the infectious diseases among the illegals which may serve as a hidden source of infection to our local population.

“It can be any type of disease – the existing ones, new ones or even those already wiped out in Malaysia,” he lamented.

Liow pointed out that disease transmission could get out of hand when foreign workers mingled with illegal immigrants.

Although the authorities were monitoring the situation, Liow urged employers to ensure that their foreign workers sought early treatment if they were unwell.

He also reminded them to provide the foreign workers with decent housing and give them adequate rest.

There are an estimated one million illegal immigrants in Malaysia, mostly Indonesians, Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Myanmars and Indians, but many believe the numbers may be higher.

There were 74,134 cases of confirmed infectious diseases in Malaysia last year. Of these, 68,424 were Malaysians and 5,710 foreigners.

And 2,050 or 36% of the 5,710 foreigners had tuberculosis.

Liow said between 7.2% and 8.1% of notified cases of infectious diseases between 2005 and 2008 involved foreigners.


1 comment:

  1. Indonesia to stop sending maids to Malaysia

    JAKARTA: Indonesia ordered employment agencies to stop sending its citizens to Malaysia to work as maids following a flood of complaints from domestic workers that their employers abused them, a government minister said Thursday.

    The measure will take effect Friday and remain in place until safeguards are implemented in Malaysia, Indonesian Manpower Minister Erman Suparno said after meeting officials from three other Indonesian ministries in the capital here.

    High-level talks will be held July 15 with Malaysian counterparts to seek a resolution, he said.

    More than 300,000 Indonesian women work as maids in Malaysia. Around 3,000 new maids head for Malaysia every month, most of them placed through specialised employment agencies, the Manpower Ministry said.

    Maids file up to 150 complaints every month with authorities in Indonesia, alleging ill treatment, overwork, unpaid salaries and physical abuse in Malaysia.

    Malaysian Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said Wednesday that his country may have to look elsewhere “to fill the country’s needs.”

    “If their maids were not allowed to work here, then in the spirit of neighborliness, we will respect their decision,” The Star quoted him as saying.

    The latest case to gain media attention involved a 33-year-old Indonesian maid who escaped this month, claiming she was scalded with hot water and beaten.

    Police detained her Malaysian employer, who faces up to 20 years in jail and a fine or whipping is convicted in court of causing grievous hurt.

    “We want to protect our migrant workers from contract violations and physical abuse,” Suparno told reporters after the meetings. -- AP