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Malaysia lifts migrant worker ban, to reopen holiday island to foreigners

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By Reuters
Malaysia lifts migrant worker ban, to reopen holiday island to foreigners
Malaysia lifts migrant worker ban, to reopen holiday island to foreigners   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

KUALALUMPUR – Malaysia will let foreign workers back into the country after an almost 16-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and allow some tourists back to its resort island of Langkawi, its prime minister said on Friday.

The agreement reached by the government’s pandemic taskforce on foreign workers has been hotly anticipated by vital sectors like palm oil plantations and rubber glove manufacturing, which rely on migrant labour.

“The Special Committee on Pandemic Management today agreed with the proposed standard operating procedures for the entry of foreign workers into Malaysia, especially to meet the needs of the plantation sector,” Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement.

Migrant worker quotas and entry dates for other industries are still being ironed out, he said.

Malaysia is reliant on some two million documented migrant workers to produce everything from gloves to iPhone parts.

Last month, the government said it would prioritise the return of 32,000 workers for the plantation sector to ease a severe labour crunch that hammered production for the world’s second largest palm oil producer.

The rubber gloves industry had also appealed to the government to allow foreign workers to return to meet growing demand this year and next.

From mid-November, Malaysia will also allow certain international travellers to visit its tropical holiday island of Langkawi, reopening its borders to foreign tourists for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The prime minister said Malaysia is targeting vaccinated, “high-yield” and “quality” tourists, indicating those that will spend money and help boost the economy. It was not immediately clear how such tourists would be targeted.

Tourists must show a negative COVID-19 result and vaccination certificate and have travel insurance of $80,000, he said.