Hundreds of Bangladeshi migrants, most of them undocumented, in Malaysia are thronging Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur every day for obtaining their passports, birth certificates and other necessary documents to become legal in the Southeast Asian country.
The mission is facing sudden influx of the migrants after the Malaysian government announced that from February 15, 2016, the undocumented foreign workers would be registered with the country's immigration department.
“Every day, around 1,500 to 2,000 Bangladeshis crowd the high commission for different purposes, including giving fingerprint for passport,” Sayedul Islam, labour counsellor at the high commission, told The Daily Star over the phone recently.
Usually, the mission serves 200 to 300 people a day, but the figure has rapidly increased as the legalisation of the undocumented foreign workers began, he said, adding that the process would continue until June 30.
Taking advantage of the huge rush of the migrants at the high commission, some brokers are now making a quick buck in the name of processing their birth certificates or national identity cards or applications for passports, sources in Malaysia told this correspondent.
The brokers have set up makeshift tents outside the mission building, but the mission officials don't take any step to stop it, they alleged.
Asked about the issue, Sayedul said they don't have anything to do outside the mission building.
In March, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared that the programme was to enable illegal foreign workers to get valid work permits as well as to have their number in the country for security purpose.
The Malaysian authorities asked the undocumented foreign workers to submit their updated documents to become legal workers.
However, the undocumented foreigners, who are carrying student or tourist or professional visas, would not be eligible for the programme, said the mission officials.
They think that a large number of Bangladeshis especially who have entered Malaysia by sea or on student or tourist visas might face deportation.
Asked about their future, an official said they would not have any other option but to return home.
However, over two lakh undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia might be regularised through the process, he added.
The move to legalise them means that the workers will now get better pay, enjoy more rights and can travel home on vacations.
There are over four lakh legal Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia who sent $112.08 million in remittance to the country last year, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training.
Some migrants alleged that they were not getting the expected services from the mission mainly due to shortage of staff.
“I have been approaching the high commission for more than two months for my passport. But I have not got it yet,” Mohammad Ismail, who works in Penang, told The Daily Star over the phone recently.
Bangladesh has already sent some officials to Malaysia to deal with the influx of the migrants, said MSK Shaheen, first secretary (consullar) at the mission.
“We are doing our best to serve the people. We are also sending mobile teams outside Kuala Lumpur at the weekends to help the people,” he said.
He also claimed that the people, who have got registered one or two months ago, are now receiving their passports.
“We need at least one month to provide passport to an applicant as it is processed in Dhaka,” Shaheen mentioned.
Asked about the issue, Brig Gen Masud Rezwan, director general of the Department of Immigration and Passports, declined to comment.
On February 17, Malaysia decided not to hire any fresh foreign workers, including Bangladeshis. The country also suspended a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Bangladesh on February 18 over recruitment of workers from Bangladesh.
On May 12, two Malaysian ministers said their government is planning to lift the ban on recruitment of foreign workers. However, a decision is yet to be made.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told Malaysian journalists that his country was lifting the freeze on hiring foreign workers for four sectors -- manufacturing, construction, plantation and furniture -- which were facing a major shortage of workers.
“In view of the acute shortage, we have to lift the suspension to allow these sectors to bring in foreign workers,” the minister said, reported Malaysian English daily The Star Online.
Without putting any definite time frame on the resumption of recruitment, he added that the Malaysian cabinet was looking to improve the system for hiring foreign workers.