‘Some farmers bent on using illegals’

KOTA BARU: Some farmers at Lojing Highlands in Gua Musang are not only committing environmental offences, but they are also hiring illegal immigrants.

Sources said the farmers were clearly violating the Anti-Trafficking In Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (Atipsom), apart from breaking the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) rules by carrying out unregulated land clearing.

“All that matters to these farmers are ways to make huge profits. They do not care about anything else. They have been clearing large swathes of land illegally to expand their farms and now are found to be hiring illegal immigrants too.

“The number of those found committing this crime is on the rise. The bigger their farms, the more workers they need. So they take the easy way out by employing them illegally, which is a crime,” said the sources.

The situation has worsened over time, the sources said, and the highlands had now become a haven for illegal foreign workers.

“You can easily find their settlements at every corner in Lojing Highlands.”

Although some farmers had obtained work permits for their workers, the number of those without legal paperwork were higher, said a source.

“For example, a farmer who grows cabbage and tomatoes has seven foreigners working with him, but only two have work permits. The rest are hired illegally. The farmers hide under this modus operandi (by mixing legal and illegal foreign workers) to evade detection by the authorities. They do not realise that they can be charged under Atipsom.”

The sources said some farmers also managed to evade enforcement action due to the location of their farms.

“The farmers open their farms on slopes and hilly areas so they can see who is coming. They are not worried about raids by the authorities because they think they have ample time to alert their illegal workers to run away.”

Kelantan Immigration director Azhar Abd Hamid did not deny that farmers at the highlands were hiring illegal foreigners.

“These (illegal) workers are mostly from Bangladesh and Myanmar.”

He said the department believed that the illegal workers were offered a “good salary” to work.

“Demand for foreign workers at Lojing Highlands is high due to the rampant farming activities. What the farmers refuse to acknowledge is the fact that hiring foreign workers without permits is an offence.

“On our part, the department has been visiting the farms regularly. We have issued stern warning to the farmers against committing the offence and reminded them to obtain proper documents for the workers.

“A number have complied and registered their workers, but there are still others who have not done so. We will not compromise if they are found harbouring illegal workers,” he said.


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