'No fresh chance'
Kuala Lumpur has opposed Dhaka's proposal for giving the undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia a fresh chance to legalise themselves, say officials at the expatriates' welfare ministry.
The undocumented Bangladeshis will have to return home, a Malaysian delegation told a Bangladesh team at a meeting at the expatriates' welfare ministry in Dhaka on Wednesday.
“Initially, Malaysian officials said they could not start fresh recruitment if the undocumented Bangladeshis don't return home,” Aminul Islam, additional secretary at the expatriates' welfare ministry, told this correspondent.
However, the Malaysian team said they would place Dhaka's proposal before their high-ups, Aminul said.
Expatriates' Welfare Secretary Rownaq Jahan led the Bangladesh side while under-secretary of Malaysian human resources ministry's policy division Betty Hasan headed the Malaysian team.
Out of one million Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, five lakh remain undocumented. The majority of them had applied months before the Malaysia-set deadline for getting legalised ended on August 31 this year.
But they could not get regularised due to fraud by brokers, agents or employers.
Since September 1 this year, a large number of Bangladeshi migrants were reported to have been detained and jailed, while many others have been living in fear of arrest and uncertainty.
Asked, Mohammad Harun Al Rashid, a Bangladeshi labour migration expert working in Malaysia, said too many Bangladeshis would be in trouble if a fresh chance for legalisation is not given.
“These Bangladeshis have paid a lot of money to agents and brokers for legalisation but failed to become regular mostly because of malpractices. They need justice.”
He said the undocumented Bangladeshis in Malaysia have skills, and Malaysian employers can benefit more if they are legalised and recruited.
At Wednesday's meeting, another topic of discussion was fresh recruitment from Bangladesh.
Hiring of Bangladeshi workers remains suspended since September 1 amid allegations of monopoly by a syndicate of 10 agencies in recruiting workers.
“We agreed that the recruitment would be open to all legal agents, not to any syndicate,” said Aminul.
Ahmed Munirus Salehin, another additional secretary at the expatriates' welfare ministry, said the recruitment cost for the workers was set at Malaysian Ringgit (RM) 2,105 (Tk 42,000) as per the agreements between the two sides.
For the employers, the hiring cost would be RM 5,525 (Tk 110,000), he told this newspaper yesterday.
Over the last two years, the workers who went to Malaysia had to pay Tk 3.5 lakh to Tk 4 lakh each, which left them indebted in most cases.
In the past, workers had to bear the employers' hiring costs. But this time, the Malaysian officials said they would make sure that the Malaysian employers pay the costs, added Ahmed.
Salim Reza, director general at the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, said the Malaysian side wanted to end the practice, which requires that Bangladesh High Commission attest the employers' letters on workers' employment following the Malaysian home ministry's approval.
“However, we told them that we have legal obligation for this. Also, it helps our high commission to keep track of the workplaces of our workers and also monitor their condition after recruitment,” he said.
“Finally, the Malaysian side agreed to our demand.”
However, Harun Al Rashid said the idea of attestation by the high commission for monitoring the workers' condition did not work properly.
“The high commission attested the Malaysian employers' letters in the past, but could not really verify the authenticity of the employers,” said the labour migration expert.
It is the Malaysian government's responsibility to inspect the companies to see whether they actually need to hire workers.
“I am saying this because a lot of companies had earlier hired Bangladeshi workers but didn't provide them with any jobs,” added Harun.