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|Malaysia bans Indian recruitment |
(about 2 hours later)
Malaysia has stopped granting visas for workers from India, amid rising domestic tensions.
A government official said the decision might be linked to the actions of a group that led protests complaining of discrimination against ethnic Indians.
But the official did not say why the decision had been made, or how long the restrictions would last.
The ban will affect thousands of manual labourers as well as professionals, including religious workers.
There are currently about 140,000 legal workers from India in Malaysia.
"The government decided it is enough, and we don't want to recruit any more," Malaysian Works Minister S Samy Vellu told Reuters news agency, while at a conference in Delhi.
The Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur told the Associated Press it had contacted the relevant authorities but did not give any further details.
The Malaysian authorities had already stopped issuing work visas for Bangladeshi migrant workers, arguing that labour agents were bringing in more workers than there were jobs.
The move to stop issuing visas to Indians was taken three weeks ago, the government said.
But Tuesday's announcement took many people by surprise.
A Vaithilingam, president of a Malaysian inter-faith group, said that the decision came without dialogue and was "unprecedented".
|Lingering ethnic divide||Lingering ethnic divide|
The BBC's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Robin Brant, said it was a significant diplomatic move by the Malaysia government.
A Home Ministry official told the BBC that the decision "may be linked to Hindraf", the Hindu activists group which organised recent rallies by Malaysian ethnic Indians.
|Thousands of ethnic Indians took to the streets late last year in protest against perceived social and economic discrimination by the Malay-Muslim majority.||Thousands of ethnic Indians took to the streets late last year in protest against perceived social and economic discrimination by the Malay-Muslim majority.|
The announcement came on the final day of a visit to Malaysia by Indian Defence Minister AK Antony.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Mr Antony "did not raise the issue of ethnic Indians in Malaysia," reported the French news agency AFP.
An unnamed Indian professional told Reuters that the Malaysian government should not have taken such a drastic step.
|"They should recognise the contribution made by Indian workers and professionals in the economic growth of the country," he said.||"They should recognise the contribution made by Indian workers and professionals in the economic growth of the country," he said.|
Our correspondent said that tensions are high with a general election expected to take place early this year.
Many people fear a repeat of the racial violence which has broken out in the past.
|Have you been affected by the ban on workers from India? Are you an Indian worker in Malaysia? Send us your experiences some of which may be published.||Have you been affected by the ban on workers from India? Are you an Indian worker in Malaysia? Send us your experiences some of which may be published.|