Saturday, February 13, 2016

Amid moves to hire 1.5 million Bangladeshis, Dhaka daily warns of exploitation

While the debate rages on in Malaysia over the need to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers over the next three years, Dhaka Tribune has warned about its citizens being vulnerable to low-wage exploitation, police raids and even detention. The report said this would mainly affect the close to one million Bangladeshis already here who have lost their registration status. Quoting a Tenaganita senior research volunteer, the report said these workers were vulnerable, especially when they fell out of the system. "Registering undocumented labourers would be a good thing," the volunteer said. The report said because Malaysia's registration system tied workers to an employer and a job, illegal entrants and legal arrivals who became undocumented by default if they switched jobs were at risk of exploitation by employers or detention by authorities. It added that after surviving the "floating coffins" and jungle cages used by people smugglers or the costly legal labour recruitment system offered by the public and private sectors, Bangladeshi workers were often no better off than when they started. "Burdened by the debt of buying passage to Malaysia – whether by legal means or otherwise – most are inclined to try their luck in the hope of recouping their costs and sending money home," the report said. It added that restoration of legal standing would be important for the 15,000 and 18,000 Bangladeshis in custody for various offences and in a variety of holding facilities in Malaysia, including the notorious "immigration depots". It was reported earlier this week that the government's plan to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers could soon come to pass under a newly drafted memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dhaka. The workers would enter Malaysia under the G2G (government-to-government) Plus scheme which allowed them employment in the construction, service, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. Previously, Bangladeshi workers were only hired for plantations. Ashikur Rahman, chairman of Migrant 88, a Bangladeshi migrant rights NGO in the process of being registered, told the Dhaka Tribune that Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia were enduring "modern-day slavery". The report, however, quoted Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Shahidul Islam as being optimistic about the future prospects for the export of manpower and confirmed that both countries were keen at the government-to-government level. Various groups in Malaysia have questioned the government's motives in wanting to bring in the 1.5 million Bangladeshis, given that a large number of workers in the country remained undocumented. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam also criticised Putrajaya over the move, saying it would adversely affect Malaysian workers and the economy. Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, however, defended the move, saying it was based on requirements in the workforce. – February 14, 2016.]]>

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