KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's government said Thursday it will issue a high-tech, security-enhanced identity card to 2.5 million foreign workers in the country to make it easier to weed out illegal immigrants.
Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said the card will be embedded with a chip containing the worker's employment details and biometric thumbprint, and is color-coded according to sector of work for easy identification.
He said the "i-Kad" has a barcode that allows enforcement officers to scan the card using a smartphone to assess the workers' details.
"These security elements are important to prevent fraud and forgery of the card. It will strengthen our enforcement. We hope that by the end of this year, all foreign workers will have this card," he said at a ceremony to publicly introduce the i-Kad.
Zahid said authorities are planning to launch a nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants on Jan 21. No further details were available.
Malaysia is dependent on foreign labor to fill low-paying menial jobs at palm oil plantations, factories, construction sites and restaurants shunned by locals.
Authorities believe hundreds of thousands of illegal foreigners, mostly from neighboring Indonesia, are working in Malaysia, apart from the 2.5 million documented migrants.
As a relatively wealthy nation in the region, Malaysia attracts people from impoverished or war-torn places, including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar, looking for jobs or a way to enter other countries such as Australia.