Many may miss amnesty chance
A large number of undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia might be left out of the regularisation process due to refusal of many employers to pay the levy they are supposed to pay for the foreign workers.
There are around five lakh Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia with an estimated three lakh of them undocumented. And almost all of them want to stay back and work, said officials at the Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur.
Late last month, Malaysia offered amnesty to irregular foreign workers, giving them opportunity to get regularised for jobs or return home without facing penalty.
Those unregistered will face arrest and punishment.
For regularisation, the workers must get registered with the government. The registration process will begin on July 18 and continue for two weeks.
Once registered, the workers will be given immigration cards allowing them to work in Malaysia until they are issued visa, said the Bangladesh high commission officials.
Malaysian immigration department will get the workers registered free of cost at its offices across the country, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia, AKM Atiqur Rahman, told The Daily Star over the phone.
Besides, it has hired some private firms to do the job since there are about a million irregular foreign workers in the country. The firms will charge each worker Malaysian Ringgit (RM) 200 to 300 (1 RM equivalent to Tk 24.60), Atiqur said.
From August 8, the employers will have to submit passports of the migrant workers and pay levy ranging from RM 2,000 to 2,500 per head depending on the job sectors, he said.
Some migrants, however, said the amount of levy might be RM 3,000 to 4,000 each.
Asked about this, Anisur Rahman Khan, coordinator of migrant's rights body IMA Research Foundation, said they are worried as many of the employers are reluctant to pay the levy.
Anis, who recently visited Malaysia and talked to undocumented workers, said, "Many employers actually prefer irregular workers because they can make them work at low wages and can dodge labour law in case of any accident."
As per Malaysian rules, the employers are supposed to pay annual levy for work permits for foreign workers, but in reality, they pass it onto the migrants.
"The same thing is going to happen this time also," said Bangladeshi worker Torab Hossain, who lives in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan.
He thinks a small number of employers will pay the levy but the others will not. Most of the undocumented Bangladeshis do not earn much because of their irregular status and they will not be able to pay the levy, he pointed out.
"We fear a large number of Bangladeshi workers will be unable to get regularised though they are adamant to stay back and work,” Torab said.
Besides, unscrupulous elements claiming to be authorised manpower agents are fleecing the migrants in the name of registration, said Torab, who works in a remittance transfer company and meets many workers every day.
"Brokers are taking thumbprints of irregular workers on fake registration forms and are charging RM 300 to 500 from each. The foul play began following Malaysia's announcement of the amnesty," he said.
The migrant workers should be warned of this to avoid being arrested and deported when the registration process is over, he added.
The high commissioner said they have received allegations of such cheating and are asking the workers through the media not to give money to any brokers, but to go to the immigration offices to get registered.
"Our officials are also going to factories, listing names of irregular workers and asking them to follow the rules set by the Malaysian authorities."
Atiqur Rahman also said, "The high commission has sought cooperation of the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the employers do not pass on the levy to the migrants."
If undocumented migrants have no employers to help their regularisation, they can individually get registered. Malaysian authorities will keep a separate list of foreign workers having no employers and help them find jobs, said the diplomat.
It is, however, yet not clear who will pay their levy.