Wristbands will just further stigmatise migrant workers, say activists

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PETALING JAYA: The idea that migrant workers should have to wear wristbands to identify them due to rising Covid-19 cases within their communities is only going to cause further stigmatisation, say several stakeholders.

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Calling on the government not to “overreact” or create “xenophobic situations”, Migrant Care Malaysia coordinator Alex Ong said Covid-19 does not differentiate migrants from Malaysians.

“It’s not good to stigmatise migrant workers with all these double standards,” the migrant rights activist told FMT.

“Look at the shortage of workers in the construction, manufacturing, plantations and agriculture sectors. We can see Malaysia needs them (migrant workers).

“If you want to stigmatise them as potential carriers, it must be across the board and you must include Malaysian workers as well,” he said.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday Putrajaya is considering whether migrant workers should be made to wear wristbands to identify them in public in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases linked to them.

North-South Initiative director Adrian Pereira said migrant workers already face “all kinds of stigma”, and making them wear wristbands will “further push them into the shadows”.

“This is bound to backfire on us,” warned the activist. “Let’s keep one protocol for all.”

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Health systems and policies specialist Dr Khor Swee Kheng said that any decision to issue wristbands to migrant workers must be carefully explained by the government.

He said the onus is on Ismail to explain the specific ways this can improve public health rather than “merely asserting” it will indeed improve public health.

“It is more likely that wristbands for migrant workers are stigmatising and ineffective, and will provide a false sense of security,” Khor said.

“It can also draw public attention away from necessary improvements to public health, for example housing, testing and healthcare insurance for migrant workers.”

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) also weighed in on the issue, with its deputy president, Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani, noting that forcing migrant workers to wear wristbands “is not the solution”.

“It seems discriminatory and a violation of human rights,” he said.

“The government should instead enforce all employers to test their migrant workers, especially in red zones, as it will prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

The Damanlela construction site cluster in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor is currently the second largest active cluster with 1,346 cases, with only the Tembok prison cluster in Kedah and Perak having more cases (1,972).

Meanwhile, the Teratai cluster in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which is linked to the positive cases among Top Glove’s factory workers, recorded 18 new cases yesterday, the second highest spike among active clusters. The Teratai cluster currently has 388 new cases. – FMT

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