Malaysia has announced that illegal foreign workers staying in the country for over a decade will face repatriation or arrest, reported a local online newspaper on Jan. 30.

According to the Daily Star, the decision came as Malaysian government is moving for more stringent visa renewal process and a crackdown on illegal foreigners.

At present, there are tens of thousands of foreigners who have been working in Malaysia for up to 13 years. Thousands of these people went to Malaysia legally but have no valid work permits due to their employers' fraudulent deals.

Home Minister Hishamuddin was cited as saying that those whose permits have expired can participate in the voluntary repatriation programme, where they only need to pay a minimal amount for returning home. The deadline for this offer is May 16.

The newswire said that Malaysian employers will be monitored to make sure that their foreign workers leave the country at the moment their contracts expire and the visas of those who have been staying in Malaysia for 13 years will not be extended anymore.

However, Vice President of Malaysian Trades Union Congress A. Balasubramaniam said employers were taking advantage of the workers' illegal status and exploiting them in various ways.

“We demanded that the Malaysian government grants these workers absolution so that they can go home or legalise their status,” he was quoted as saying.

Forced expatriation of foreign nationals who have been working in Malaysia for long is also seen as causing a great loss because “they are doing good business or working as skilled workers.” Observers meanwhile said Malaysia should address the issue diplomatically./.