Rights bodies slam KL over job-cut policy
Migrants' rights bodies yesterday slammed the arbitrary retrenchment of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, saying such policies go against international labour laws and humanity.
They demanded that the government immediately form a inter-ministerial taskforce to ensure that these 'cheated' workers are reinstated in their jobs where possible or get at least some form of compensation.
They also stressed the need for a database being maintained of the returnee workers so that the government can help in their rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, 92 workers returned from abroad yesterday.
“The situation has created a huge frustration among workers and their families,” said Sheepa Hafiza, director (training) of Gender Justice and Diversity and Advocacy, Brac at a press conference on the issue at the Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital.
BRAC, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Warbe Development Foundation, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Obhibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA), IMA Research Foundation, Human Rights Development Information Centre, Obhibashi Karmi Unnayan Program and Bangladesh Construction and Wood Workers Association jointly organised the press conference.
Participants came down hard on the government's negligence to protect the interests of migrant workers, most of whom are returning home without any compensation of any sort.
Many Bangladeshi workers are being retrenched though they have valid documents because of Malaysia's policy of pushing “foreign workers out first” in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Malaysia has already cancelled 55,000 work visas of Bangladeshis, who have already spent large sums to acquire those.
Reading out a statement, Sheepa Hafiza said, “Malaysia should ensure jobs for those already in Malaysia on work permits.”
She said that as the foreign minister and expatriates' welfare minister visit Malaysia for talks on the matter, they have to ensure that workers' rights are in no way violated.
Others at the press conference pointed out that workers have been seriously exploited as they are being laid off despite the duration of their contracts not ending over.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) Coordinator Dr Tasneem Siddiqui said they had submitted a report to the government over a month ago, predicting the possible retrenchment of workers and recommending ways in which to deal with it, but the government had taken no action in this regard.
Referring to the Filipino government's stand on the matter, she pointed out how they had formed a taskforce to negotiate airfares or placement fees from the employers laying off their citizens.
“But our government is doing nothing. The government's knowledge base to manage the crisis has been seriously affected by the transfer of high officials concerned,” Siddiqui said.
Warbe Development Foundation Chairman Syed Saiful Haque said labour issues in Malaysia have been in place for too long but the government has been pretending problems don't exist.
He also said that it should be investigated why the Malaysian government cancelled the visas already issued, and exactly how many Bangladeshi workers with valid documents in Malaysia have been laid off.
Bangladesh Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, expressed concern over return of thousands of migrants. It is a serious violation of rights that workers who sold their land for overseas jobs were being forced to return empty-handed before their contracts were over.
The Commission demanded urgent diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue and also punitive actions against those involved in malpractices further victimising jobseekers.
MORE WORKERS RETURN
At least 92 workers returned from abroad till 7:00pm yesterday.
Of them, 49 returned from Malaysia, 38 from the United Arab Emirates and 5 from Kuwait.
With this, the number of returnee migrants crossed 7000 in March. Over 8,000 workers were forced to return in February, a figure more than double the numbers in previous months.
They all returned on special travel passes, issued by the Bangladesh missions in cases of overstay or irregularities in their travel documents.
Almost all the workers returning from Malaysia had irregularities in their documents because of untimely lay offs. Many have also spent time in jail before returning, sources said.