The market at Pasar Besar Seremban, 70km south of Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Google Map

Immigration authorities in Malaysia have been urged to show leniency to more than 10 refugees arrested in a town south of Kuala Lumpur for working illegally.

The head of the Seremban Market Traders Welfare Association spoke out after immigration officials raided the market in Pasar Besar Seremban on Monday morning. The town is about 70km south of the capital.

More than a dozen of immigration officers raided the Seremban Market at about 9am and checked out the identity of stall employees to see if any were refugees or illegal workers, the Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported.

The owner of a shop serving tea said an Indonesian migrant worker – a woman who he believed had a valid work permit – was taken away for further inquiries, and his permit to operate the business was withheld as the officers said the worker’s documents were faked and he was liable for hiring an illegal worker.

The owner of a rice-noodle stall was also in trouble because his worker, who he knew was a refugee, had been detained. He was simply handed an official letter “inviting” him to visit the Immigration headquarters to deal with the matter.

The chairman of the Seremban Market Traders Welfare Association voiced hope that Immigration officials could be more lenient and show some humanity while handling cases of refugees who work illegally in Malaysia.

Stall vendors were able to have workers if they hired refugees or illegal workers, while the refugees could make their ends meet, which was a win-win solution.

Barring them from working could be no different from indirectly encouraging them to resolve their survival needs by stealing and committing crimes. It would also leave more than 70% of the stall traders struggling with their businesses because they would have no workers.

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