Experts on labour migration and governance have demanded an investigation into the alleged monopoly of a syndicate in recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia.
They have also called for effective measures to free the sector from corruption as Malaysia has suspended the current recruitment system under the Government to Government (G-to-G) Plus mechanism that allowed only 10 Bangladeshi recruiting agents to send workers to Malaysia.
Bangladesh government should take this as an opportunity to bring down migration costs, they said.
“The government is supposed to be aware of the operations and influence of the syndicate members responsible for this situation. But they have remained beyond the reach,” Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said in a statement yesterday.
Now, an opportunity has been created to rid the migration sector of monopoly, syndication and corruption, he said.
“TIB thinks this is the time for the government to prove political and administrative goodwill.”
On August 21, Malaysian home ministry said the government decided to suspend the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers through SPPA (Sistem Pengambilan Pekerja Asing), an online system operated by a private Malaysian company, with effect from September 1.
It said any further decision on the matter would be made based on minister-level discussions between the two countries.
Recruiting agents say the Bangladeshi workers, who have recently completed the process of migrating to Malaysia through SPPA, will be allowed to enter the Southeast Asian country, but the Malaysian government will not approve any new job request from employers from September 1.
Wishing anonymity, an official at Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia told this newspaper that they were planning to hold a minister-level meeting “soon” and decide the mechanism for labour recruitment.
The development comes following a huge controversy over SPPA through which nearly two lakh Bangladeshi workers migrated to Malaysia since late 2016.
On June 22, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported that an organised syndicate of 10 agents, led by a Bangladeshi businessman having alleged political connections with the Malaysian home ministry, raked in at least two billion Malaysian ringgits (around Tk 4,000 crore) from Bangladeshi workers in just two years.
The workers paid RM20,000 (around Tk 4 lakh) each to their Bangladeshi agents, who then paid half of the sum to the syndicate to have work permit approvals and flight tickets to Malaysia, said the report.
Yesterday, Iftekharuzzaman said the TIB is concerned over Malaysia's announcement of suspension of labour recruitment.
However, the Malaysian government's decision to stop monopolistic and unethical manpower business can be looked at from a positive perspective, he said.
Bangladesh government can initiate participatory and open discussions with the Malaysian authorities and develop a transparent system for labour recruitment, Iftekharuzzaman mentioned.
Dr Jalal Uddin Sikder, adjunct senior research fellow at the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of Dhaka University, said Malaysia's decision appears to be an attempt to improve governance in foreign labour recruitment.
“So, Bangladesh too needs to probe the syndicate's corruption,” he told The Daily Star.
Sikder, also associate professor of general education department at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, said Nepal is negotiating with Malaysia for G-to-G level recruitment at a low cost.
“Bangladesh should also think of such mechanism if it really wants to improve governance in the sector. There must be a robust mechanism even if it takes time,” he said.