The Jakarta Post
As Malaysia plans to extend its lockdown until mid-April, a lawmaker has urged the Indonesian government to provide aid for many informal-sector workers in the neighboring country, whose livelihoods are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Many of our migrant workers in Malaysia are construction workers, factory workers, waitresses or janitors. They are paid daily or weekly," Golkar Party lawmaker Christina Aryani said in a statement on Friday.
She explained that 10 days after Malaysia went into lockdown, she had received reports that workers in Malaysia were beginning to struggle to meet their basic needs.
"They need staple food aid immediately," she said. "We have urged the government to send them staple food via the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur."
Besides staple food, Christina explained that the migrant workers also desperately needed face masks.
"I hope the government can ensure that both urgent needs [are met] for our migrant workers," she said.
On March 18, Malaysia enforced a national lockdown as part of stepped-up measures to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The lockdown was initially set to expire on March 31. However, on Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the lockdown would be extended to April 14.
The director of the Indonesian Citizen Resolution Center in Malaysia (P3WNI), Dato M Zainul Arifin, said many of the migrant workers were afraid they might starve.
"Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia aren't afraid of COVID-19, they are afraid that they would be starving since they can no longer work," he said on Friday as quoted by kompas.com.
Zainul explained the problem was exacerbated by the fact that many of them had gone to Malaysia illegally.
"Many of them were illegal immigrants, and some don't have the necessary permits for their jobs. For example, they have a permit to work at a plantation but work at a restaurant instead. That means they don't have employers or bosses who can legally take care of them [during the lockdown]," he said.
As of Friday afternoon, Malaysia has recorded 2,161 COVID-19 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia.