MANILA, Philippines – A total of 687 Filipino workers in Sabah, Malaysia, could face arrest and deportation because of a delay in the release of their passports from the Philippine Embassy there.
Juvy Ranjit, managing director of Pinoy Resources, an employment agency in Kota Kinabalu, flew to Manila from Malaysia and personally went to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Friday to submit a letter of appeal for their workers’ passports.
“We don’t know what’s happening [with the] passports and it causes so much agony on our business as well as losses of income,” she told reporters in an interview.
Ranjit said she came to Manila as the coordinator of an association of employment agencies with 100 member agencies in Malaysia.
She said that the workers were blaming the employment agencies for their failure to give the passports. They are mostly working in the many palm oil plantations in Lahad Datu but many have already been
terminated by the plantation owners for fear of being imposed fines by Malaysian authorities, she added.
“Some were rioting in our offices and throwing things at us. We had to close and transfer [because of fear],” Ranjit said.
The processing for the passports have all been fully paid since seven months ago, she said, showing to reporters a copy of the full list of workers and the official receipts they were issued.
The delay in the release of passports has caused many Filipinos there to miss availing of an amnesty program offered by the Malaysian government to undocumented migrant workers.
“Illegal workers can come forward and have their biometrics taken. Without that they cannot have passports and work permits,” she said.
“They can no longer get their work permits because the amnesty program expired last November. And now it is too late to get their passports and apply for work permits,” Ranjit said.
Because of that, the agencies are the ones being blamed by the workers, she said.
When they had come to the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia to follow up on the passports, they were told that the passports are still in Manila, which left her with no recourse but to personally come and
appeal to the DFA, she said.