Labour Hiring in Malaysia: All licensed agencies can now operate

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Bangladesh and Malaysia yesterday decided to allow all licensed recruiting agencies of Bangladesh to send workers to the Southeast Asian country, following allegations of a syndicate of 10 agents monopolising labour recruitment since early 2017.

The decision came in a meeting between Bangladesh Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Nurul Islam and Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia.

“In the meeting, some important and epoch-making decisions were taken. One of those is recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia through all Bangladeshi legal recruiting agencies under the G-to-G Plus system,” says a statement issued by the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.

The new Malaysian government had cancelled the previous online recruitment system, SPPA, with effect from September 1 following reports of the collusion between members of the syndicate.

On June 22, The Star, a Malaysian newspaper, reported that an organised syndicate of 10 agents, led by a Bangladeshi businessman with alleged political links with the Malaysian home ministry, raked in at least two billion Malaysian ringgits (around Tk 4,000 crore) from 100,000 Bangladeshi workers in just two years.

onsidering that two lakh workers were recruited through the syndicate until suspension of the SPPA, the amount of money raked in would be Tk 8,000 crore.

On August 14, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that the syndicate had resulted in a monopolistic situation, with some charging as high as RM20,000 from each prospective worker.

He had then said that all the Bangladeshi agents would be allowed to recruit workers.

The recruiting agencies of Bangladesh and migrant rights activists have lauded yesterday’s decision.

“We appreciate the decision…,” said Nurul Amin, former joint secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).

However, the statement issued by the expatriates’ welfare ministry has made no mention of the recruitment cost, but Nurul Amin said it had approved a recruitment cost of Tk 1.6 lakh.

He could not exactly say why this amount would be required as documentation, medical tests, and one way airfare to Malaysia were not more than Tk 40,000.

“The minister [Nurul Islam] has approved this amount,” Nurul Amin said, stressing that this cost must be strongly maintained and any agency charging higher than the amount should face cancellation of their licence.

Mohammad Harun Al Rashid, a Bangladeshi migrant rights activist living in Malaysia, said allowing all agencies to recruit labour was a good decision, but it was extremely important that no parties were involved in corruption that led to labour exploitation.

“Corruption and monopoly in the labour recruitment process in the past caused massive problem. Malaysia had frozen labour recruitment from Bangladesh repeatedly,” Rashid told this correspondent over phone yesterday.

He said the reported allegations of massive corruption by the syndicate of 10 agents, with the connivance of the previous Malaysian government, in recruitment of Bangladeshi workers must be investigated. Those involved must face legal action, he added.

Meanwhile, the expatriates’ welfare ministry, in a statement, said Malaysia was positive about regularisation of the undocumented Bangladeshi workers now facing troubles in Malaysia.

Of some one million Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, around five lakh are reportedly undocumented. Almost all of the undocumented ones had applied to the Malaysian immigration department for work permits under a rehiring programme, which ended on June 30, said an official of the Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur.

However, most of them have not gotten the work permit yet, he added.

Besides, thousands of foreign workers, including Bangladeshis, had remained detained since July 1.

Rashid said there were a lot of irregularities in the rehiring programme, where migrants paid hefty sums but could not get the work permits issued. He suggested that the new Malaysian government provide a fresh chance for the undocumented migrants to get work permits.

An 11-member Bangladesh delegation led by Shahidul Islam, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia, also held the first meeting of a joint working group with their Malaysian counterpart in Putrajaya yesterday.