Malaysia Plans High-Tech Card for Foreign Workers

By The Associated Press 10 January 2014

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government said Thursday it will issue high-tech, security-enhanced identity cards to more than 2 million foreign workers to make it easier to find people who entered the country illegally.

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said the cards will be embedded with chips containing the worker’s employment details and biometric thumbprint, and will be color-coded according to sector of work for easy identification.

He said the “i-Kad” also will have barcodes that allow enforcement officers to scan the cards using a smartphone to assess the workers’ details.

“These security elements are important to prevent fraud and forgery of the card. It will strengthen our enforcement. We hope that by the end of this year, all foreign workers will have this card,” he said at a ceremony announcing its introduction.

Immigration Director-General Alias Ahmad said there are 2.25 million documented foreign workers in the country, and more may be registered under an extended amnesty that ends Jan. 20.

Zahid said authorities are planning to launch a nationwide crackdown on foreigners who entered illegally when the amnesty ends. No further details were available.

Malaysia is dependent on foreign labor to fill low-paying menial jobs at palm oil plantations, factories, construction sites and restaurants shunned by Malaysians.

Authorities believe hundreds of thousands of foreigners, mostly from neighboring Indonesia, are working illegally in Malaysia.

As a relatively wealthy nation in the region, Malaysia attracts people from impoverished places including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Burma who are looking for jobs or a way to enter other countries such as Australia.