Malaysia is not going to recruit any foreign workers until the end of the year as it has decided to prioritise jobs for locals amid the economic slowdown caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The decision, announced on Monday, has dealt a blow to Bangladeshis' hopes of landing jobs in Malaysia in the near future.
Malaysia, which is home to some eight lakh Bangladeshi migrants, suspended recruitment from Bangladesh in September 2018 following allegations of a syndicate that used to charge Bangladeshi workers up to Tk 400,000 each for jobs in Malaysia.
The two governments have been working on measures to check anomalies and prevent any syndicate of recruiting agents in the recruitment system.
However, Malaysia's Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan told a news conference on Monday, "We will not allow [new] foreign workers until year-end. They [foreigners] can come as tourists, if they are allowed."
After launching the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) initiative under the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) in Putrajaya, he said there are now about two million foreign workers in the country, reports Malaysia's state news agency, Bernama.
"We try to reduce foreign workers in the workforce besides giving priority to locals to secure jobs," he said.
Saravanan said the ministry would evaluate the move by year-end to see if it was effective in helping the locals.
He advised job seekers not to be too selective about jobs, so that the country can reduce its dependence on foreign workers.
"Don't think about waiting for a suitable job because the right job might not exist in the immediate future," he said.
Meanwhile, Fortify Rights and Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN) yesterday called for the Malaysian government to end arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants in Malaysia.
The Malaysian authorities rounded up and detained thousands of refugees and migrants during a series of immigration raids starting on May 1 despite the heightened risk of Covid-19 transmission in detention facilities. They still continue to arrest and detain refugees and migrants, said a joint statement of RWDN and Fortify Rights.
On June 14, the Malaysian health ministry reported that a 67-year-old man from India died of Covid-19 on June 12 at the Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Center outside Kuala Lumpur.
The ministry reports at least 735 cases of Covid-19 in IDCs across Malaysia.
During period of recovery from the pandemic, the Malaysian government should ensure refugees and migrants are provided with tailored protections to address their specific needs, including access to food and ability to pay for accommodation, the rights bodies said.
"Malaysia should ensure all refugees have legal status and access to basic support mechanisms," said Fortify Rights Executive Director Amy Smith.
"This is about public health as well as human rights."