Some 270 Bangladeshi workers have allegedly been defrauded of over 1.8 million Malaysian ringgits (Tk 3.6 crore) by an agent over securing valid work permits under the Malaysian rehiring programme.
Imran Haq Uzzal, one of the victims, said they had handed over their passports, other relevant documents and paid between RM 7,200 and RM 8,000 each to the agent for work permits, but nothing came from it, The Star Online of Malaysia reported yesterday.
This has now left the migrant workers with only one option -- returning to Bangladesh.
The allegations come amid a crackdown on undocumented migrants in Malaysia. The government launched the drive on July 1 after the rehiring programme had ended on June 30.
Earlier on February 15, 2016, the Malaysian government opened the programme to regularise illegal migrants.
Malaysian Bar Council in a statement early last month said the government had appointed three private companies to register the undocumented migrants for regularisation. However, a lot of brokers involved in the process took undue advantage of the migrants' vulnerability to defraud them.
According to migrants and rights activists, nearly one million Bangladeshis now live in Malaysia. About half of them were either waiting for regularisation or defrauded by the agents and brokers.
Imran, who has been working in Malaysia for about seven years, said he along with many other workers had sought the services of the company, which is based in Klang Valley, to obtain valid working permits to continue working in the country.
“We went to the office multiple times to inquire about the status of our applications until before the June 30 deadline for the rehiring programme.
“However, the man who runs the company kept making up excuses,” he said.
Another Bangladeshi, Mohammad Alamgir, said they looked for the company's owner and even waited outside the immigration office on the last day of the rehiring programme.
“From June 27, the owner kept assuring us that our applications will go through and we will get our permits.
“Our hopes were dashed when the deadline passed with no permits,” he said.
Alamgir claimed the owner, when confronted, threatened him and the other workers.
“He warned us against reporting the matter to the authorities. However, we will not be deterred,” he said.
The group of workers, who are mainly from the construction sector from the Klang Valley and some other states, said they have reported the matter to the police, the immigration authorities as well as the Bangladesh High Commission.
“We want justice. We hope the Malaysian authorities can assist us in getting our permits,” said Alamgir.
Mohammad Salam, a Bangladeshi worker, called The Daily Star from Kuala Lumpur yesterday and said he paid RM 7000 to a Bangladeshi broker in December last year for a work permit, but was defrauded.
After paying the broker, Salam contacted him several times, but the broker only asked him to “wait”.
The victim said no employer was hiring them now as the crackdown on undocumented migrants was underway.
“I have been living with a friend in Kuala Lumpur for over a month. I can neither go home nor work and earn a living here,” said Salam from Bangladesh's Shariatpur district.