Several thousand Bangladeshi migrants, who are illegally staying in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, are in danger of being deported home, as the two countries have launched crackdowns against illegal expatriates last month.
At least 336 Bangladeshis were detained by the Malaysian police till Wednesday while around 1,000 more were believed to be held in Saudi Arabia in the last week of January.
Malaysian authorities launched the raids against illegal expatriates from January 21 in order to streamline its labour market and it would continue for an indefinite period, Malaysian Home Minister Ahmed Zahid Hamidi told local media last week.
In the first nine days of the drive, the Malaysian police detained around 3,000 illegal migrants of different nationalities, including the Bangladeshis, according to local media reports.
More Bangladeshis are believed to have been detained after Wednesday as the crackdown continues.
Mantu Kumar Biswas, labour counsellor of Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur, said they could not immediately confirm the exact figure of Bangladeshi detainees.
He also warned Bangladeshis against using illegal channels to go to Malaysia.
“A good number of Bangladeshis have entered Malaysia using tourist or student visas and then started working as labourers. These people have become the target of the raids,” Mantu said.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain believes around 25,000 Bangladeshis are currently staying in Malaysia illegally.
“We have repeatedly urged our people, who are in Malaysia illegally, to legalise their status or return home. If anybody is still staying there illegitimately, they have to face punitive actions taken by the Malaysian government," he told The Daily Star.
Meanwhile, the Saudi police are also conducting raids across the kingdom to detain illegal expatriates and deport them.
According to Saudi newspapers, over 10,000 illegal foreigners, including Bangladeshis, were detained last month alone.
Though the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh confirmed that there were Bangladeshi nationals among the detainees, it could not give an estimate of them.
However, an official of Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, preferring anonymity, told The Daily Star that around 1,000 Bangladeshis were feared to be among the detainees.
Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Shahidul Islam said the mission was working on ensuring safe return of 5,000 to 6,000 illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in the country.
“We are trying to resolve the difficulties of some of our people, who are staying illegally and do not have necessary documents, so that they can return home,” he told The Daily Star over the phone.
Saudi police are conducting the crackdown against migrant workers, whose work permits have expired, as the two months' extended deadline for the workers to legalise their stay ended on January 2.