Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has said the country's rehiring programme for the undocumented migrant workers was a failure as a large number of them were not given work permits.
Work permits were issued only to 450,000 out of 828,861 applicants under the rehiring programme, MEF Executive Director Shamsudin Bardan said.
The authorities didn't achieve the “target” as a lot of applications were rejected, either for not completing medical checkups, not providing biometric data or for not having passports, he said.
Shamsudin added that those who had their applications rejected were now left with no more avenues to gain legal employment, Kuala Lumpur-based news portal Malaysiakini reported on Wednesday.
The rehiring programme had begun in February 2016 and ended on June 30 this year. Also, the amnesty programme, which allowed the undocumented workers to return home by paying a fine worth Tk 8,000 each, ended on August 30.
According to officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, some one million Bangladeshis now live in Malaysia. Around half of them are undocumented.
Most of the irregular Bangladeshi migrants applied for regularisation under the rehiring programme, but many of them complained that they didn't get work permits despite spending hefty sums.
Talking to The Daily Star over the phone a few days ago, some migrants said they were passing days in panic, with some staying in jungles overnight, to avoid arrest as the Malaysian immigration department launched a crackdown on illegal migrants on August 31.
According to the immigration department, over 30,000 undocumented migrants, including some 6,000 Bangladeshis, have been detained since January 1.
Shamsudin also expressed concern that legal migrant workers would be caught during the raids as many don't bring their work permits to work.
“Many of those who are legal do not bring their permits to work because it is not necessary for them to do so.
“But if they are caught, they will still be considered illegal, as they can't produce legitimate working passes,” he said.
Earlier, rights groups said a lot of the undocumented workers were victims of abusive employers, cheating by agents and sub-agents and human traffickers, and demanded that the authorities take actions against the offenders.
They also called upon the government to halt the crackdown on migrants and provide them with a fresh chance for legalisation, to be conducted directly by the immigration department.