11th March 2024: FMT – Duped migrant jobseekers, victims of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia for forced labour, face mental health issues, says Malaysian ex-MP

11th March 2024: Duped migrant jobseekers, victims of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangaldeshi workers to Malaysia for forced labour, face mental health issues, says Malaysian ex-MP

11th March 2024: Duped migrant jobseekers, victims of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia for forced labour, face mental health issues, says Malaysian ex-MP

Duped migrant jobseekers, victims of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia for forced labour, face mental health issues. Former Klang MP Charles Santiago says some even die from stressed-induced ailments or suicide. Migrant workers duped into coming to Malaysia are known to suffer from mental health issues and heart attacks, says a DAP politician who actively deals with such cases.

Original Source: FMT by Sean Augustin – 11th March 2024

Charles Santiago claimed that these stress-induced mental health issues lead to migrants taking their own lives in some cases.

The former Klang MP said most of the foreign workers borrow large sums of money in their home countries, usually a sum equivalent to RM30,000, just for a chance to make a living overseas with the hope of supporting their families back home.

Some even mortgage their homes and borrow from loan sharks, he added.

“And when they come to Malaysia, they realise they cannot pay their debts because they don’t have a job here. The stress levels are massive and I don’t blame them for feeling this way,” he told FMT.

Santiago was commenting on a recent report about a Bangladeshi man who reportedly died of a heart attack in Sepang, Selangor while attempting to return home, six months after he was duped into coming to Malaysia for a non-existent job.

Duped Migrant Workers are Charged Hefty Fees

Shofiqul Islam, 33, had also endured poor living conditions, apart from having his passport withheld by the company that had supposedly brought him in.

Prior to his death, Shofiqul and 13 others sought legal recourse from the labour department but were told it could not do anything as the company involved was based in Johor Bahru. Commenting on the practice of some companies who withheld the passports of their foreign workers, Santiago said these firms did so to prevent the labourers from job-hopping.

He claimed that in some cases they would charge these foreign workers a hefty fee, between RM2,000 to RM4,000, to have their passports returned.

Santiago went on to question the labour department’s commitment in helping Shofiqul and the other 13 migrant workers over their predicament, saying that no rule says it cannot take up a case in another state.

“You can, it just requires more time to gather all the information.”

Santiago said that the human resources minister needs to wake up and “smell the burnt coffee” in the fact that the officers under his ministry were inefficient and not addressing the issue.

Daily Star 10th March 2024: Migrating to a life of unemployment

Original Source: The Daily Star – Editorial – 10th March 2024

End the exploitation, hold those responsible to account 

Back in 2022, we hailed Malaysia’s decision to reopen its labour market to Bangladeshi workers as a positive development that would change the lives of aspiring migrants in the country. We are horrified to learn that many of their lives have, indeed, changed dramatically—only for the worse. According to a recent report by this daily, tens of thousands of Bangladeshi men were enticed by the prospect of jobs and fair pay under relaxed recruitment policies in Malaysia, only to find themselves among the ranks of the unemployed upon arrival.

Take the story of Jahirul, for example, who spent Tk 5 lakh to go to Malaysia seven months ago. He was promised a job with a construction company in Kuala Lumpur and a minimum wage of 1,500 Malaysian ringgit (about Tk 35,000 or $320). However, since his arrival, he has been locked up in a hotel room with other migrant workers and given rice and lentils twice a day, without any work or pay. Jahirul said he was one of 600 others hired by the same company. With over 400,000 Bangladeshis making the journey to Malaysia since the reopening of the labour market, a staggering number now find themselves facing unemployment, underpayment, and mounting debts, perpetually tortured by the thought of how they are letting down their families at home.

The exploitation extends beyond economic hardship, with companies withholding passports and trapping workers in dependency and vulnerability, as they risk becoming illegal residents if they leave the confines of the hotel. While some have sought recourse through complaints to Malaysia’s Labour Department, the path to justice remains uncertain. Despite assurances from Bangladeshi authorities and promises of support from the high commission, tangible action has been elusive for those trapped in this cycle of exploitation.

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi authorities do not even seem to know how many might be facing such a horrific fate in Malaysia. While some independent researchers say the number of such Bangladeshis range between 100,000 and 200,000, the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia and the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) say the number stands at a few thousands.

Who is to blame for this dire situation? It lies with a system that prioritises profit over human dignity, allowing unscrupulous employers and companies to exploit regulatory loopholes for financial gains. The failure to adequately regulate the influx of foreign workers has exacerbated an already precarious situation, leaving many to suffer the consequences. The companies and recruiting agents who are trapping workers with such false promises must be identified on an urgent basis before more aspiring migrants’ dreams and lives are shattered. It is imperative that both Malaysian and Bangladeshi authorities take swift and decisive actions to address this humanitarian crisis. The rights and dignity of migrant workers must be upheld, and those responsible for their exploitation must be held to account.

10th March 2024: The Daily Star – Distressed in Malaysia – Thousands of Bangladeshi migrants jobless, unpaid or underpaid 

Original Source: The Daily Star by Porimol Palma 10th March 2024

Representational image of Bangladeshi migrant workers. File Photo: Reuters

For aspiring migrant workers in Bangladesh, Malaysia’s reopening of the labour market in 2022 for 15 source countries including Bangladesh to jumpstart its economy from the ravages of the pandemic — was a godsend.

The Southeast Asian nation had frozen recruitment from Bangladesh in September 2018 following allegations of labour exploitation and high migration costs.Figures in the Bangladesh Malaysia syndicate

Hoping to change the lives of their families for the better, tens of thousands of men borrowed lakhs to fund the migration process.

However, a rude awakening awaited the Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia: there was no work for them. More than 400,000 Bangladeshis went to Malaysia since the reopening of the labour market, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training. In fact, Malaysia recruited the highest number of workers from Bangladesh — more than 351,000 workers only in 2023. Many of them are now jobless, unpaid or underpaid.

One such optimistic migrant was Jahirul Islam from Netrokona, who spent Tk 5 lakh to go to Malaysia seven months ago, taking advantage of the relaxed recruitment policy for foreign workers introduced by the Southeast Asian nation in January last year.

Under the special scheme, employers were allowed to hire workers based on their current needs and abilities without having to go through “hiring prerequisites and qualification quotas”.

The only requirement was that the foreign workers would be paid a minimum wage of 1,500 Malaysian ringgit (about Tk 35,000 or $320).

The 30-year-old Jahirul got a construction job at Beaks SDN BHD in Kuala Lumpur, where he would be paid the minimum monthly wage of RM 1500 that could double with overtime and other allowances.

“But there was no work and no pay. We are provided food twice a day — it’s just rice and lentils,” he told The Daily Star on March 2 over the phone from a Kuala Lumpur hotel where he and some 50 other Bangladeshis are staying.

The company hired about 600 Bangladeshis but they were not provided with any job. For a few weeks, some of them were assigned to work for other companies with lumpsum or no pay.

What is more cold-hearted is that the company is taking away the passports of foreign workers. Upon furnishing Tk 1.7-1.8 lakh, they could have their most precious identification document back. If anyone leaves the hotel, he is not allowed to return and thus becomes illegal. In other words, the foreign workers are held hostage in the hotel. Shakil Khan from Jahirul’s cohort was intrepid enough to venture out of the hotel to look for jobs. With no passport on him, he had no luck with the job hunt.

The 29-year-old from Magura has rented a room with the money his family has sent from Bangladesh by borrowing.

“I was supposed to pay back the loan I took to come here with my earnings, but I am plunging further into debt just to survive here. What could be more tragic?”

Compounding his worries is the death of his father months after he migrated to Malaysia, meaning his mother, wife and two-year son have to fend for themselves and also manage money for him. Shakil along with six others filed a complaint with Malaysia’s Labour Department and is awaiting a verdict.

“I will be undocumented if I cannot renew my work permit in the next two months,” he said.

Like Shakil and Jahirul, more than 100,000 Bangladeshis are now jobless, unpaid, underpaid and indebted in Malaysia, according to the estimates of Andy Hall, a migrant rights activist and researcher. Hall documented dozens of cases where Bangladeshi migrants were denied jobs even though they followed all the procedures. Another Kuala Lumpur-based migrant rights researcher said the number of such Bangladeshis would be around 200,000. This raises the question of who is to blame for the Bangladeshi migrant workers’ plight in Malaysia.

Researchers said numerous bogus companies applied for foreign workers taking advantage of the relaxed rules. The companies brought the foreign workers to the Malaysian shore only to make money out of the process.

Though the relaxed recruitment was for manufacturing and services sectors, many construction companies snuck in foreign workers too.

This relaxed policy led to an excess of foreign workers in the manufacturing and service sectors, according to the Malaysian home ministry.

On October 23 last year, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported that a total of 667,418 foreign workers had entered Malaysia compared to the forecast of 518,000 since the reopening of the labour market in 2022.

Officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia and the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) also admit that there was surplus recruitment of workers and that many are unemployed.

They, however, say that the number would be a few thousand — which the independent researchers rejected.

As per the memorandum of understanding, the Malaysian government is responsible for ensuring that all workers have jobs and rights, said Ali Haider Chowdhury, secretary general of BAIRA.

“I hope the Malaysian authorities will probe the complaints and take necessary actions to put the workers in jobs.”

An official at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said the mission takes up complaints of joblessness, nonpayment or underpayment with employers.

“In case of failures, the high commission engages the Malaysian authorities for addressing the complaints,” he said on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak with media.

Jahirul though remains sceptical of the support provided by the Bangladesh mission.

The Bangladesh high commission officials visited their hotel three months back and pledged to solve the problems.

“Nothing happened since then.”

Background Reading:

Malay Mail 9th Mar 2024: Activists warn rushed 31st Mar visa deadline in Malaysia could force firms to source foreign workers unethically (includes my commentary on the abrupt policy change)

9th Mar 2024 The Star: No extension of May 31 foreign worker deadline

NST 9th Mar 2024: Keep recruitment agencies in a list rather than shutting them down, govt told   

See also NST 9th Mar 2024: Sourcing migrant workers takes time, ‘not like buying cattle’, employer groups tell govt

NST 8th Mar 2024: Eliminate middlemen from migrant worker recruitment process, govt told

Star 8th Mar 2024: May 31 deadline for foreign workers recruitment under recalibration programme remains, says Saifuddin

Malay Mail 8th Mar 2024: Saifuddin Nasution: No more agents for Bangladeshi worker recruitment

6th March 2024: Malaysian government halts foreign worker entry into the country from 31st May 2024 (final calling visa/VDN approval issuance deadline 31st March 2024) as migrant worker management crisis worsens and victims of gross exploitation, unemployment and destitution rise significantly

6th March 2024: Business Times –Sudden change in foreign worker policy by Malaysian government leaves industry in limbo

6th Mar 2024 Edge: Foreign worker intake deadline changes will leave manufacturers in the lurch, says FMM

6th Mar 2024 FMT: Industry players shocked by foreign worker policy change, says FMM

5th March 2024: NCCIM urges govt to review unused foreign worker quota deadline

4th March 2024 URGENT call for donations/support: joining forces with HOPE SELANGOR to fill gap in providing humanitarian aid and assistance to victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers into forced labour in Malaysia

3rd March 2024: Concern on repatriation of potential trafficking and forced labour/abuse victims under Malaysian Migrant Worker Repatriation Programme Commencing 1st March 2024 (Statement by Andy Hall, Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist)

3rd March 2024: Ensure ‘crooks’ do not gain from repatriation programme, says activist

2nd March 2024 The Star: A chance for illegals to go home

2nd March 2024 The Star: Sarawak immigration extends RTK2.0 until June

EDGE 1st Mar 2024: Home Ministry moves to free up foreign workers quota, unused allocations to be cancelled from June 1

1st March 2024 FMT: 600,000 foreign workers urged to take easy exit home

1st March 2024 The Star: Use repatriation programme to return home, 600,000 illegals told

1st March 2024 MalayMail: Saifuddin reminds employers to get their foreign worker affairs in order before March 31

28th February 2024 The Star: New programme lets migrants off the hook without being prosecuted

25th February 2024 The Star: Businesses want foreign worker hiring freeze lifted

31st January 2024 NST: Govt to implement Migrant Repatriation Programme starting March

31st January 2024 The Edge: Cabinet agrees to extend freeze on hiring of foreign workers, says home minister 

31st January 2024 FMT: Migrant repatriation programme set for March 1

31st January 2024 The Star: Migration Repatriation Programme to commence on March 1, says Home Ministry

1st March 2024: Duped Bangladeshi worker (another victim of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia) dies while trying to go home

RTV Online 1st Mar 2024: Expatriates die without getting work in Malaysia (google translate)

27th February 2024: SCMP – Malaysian firm probed for human trafficking after 93 Bangladeshi workers found abandoned

26th February 2024: Statement by Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist Andy Hall on Joint KDN, KSM and MAPO Operation to Rescue More Destitute and Stranded Victims of the Alleged Criminal Syndicate Trafficking Workers from Bangladesh for Forced Labour in Malaysia (includes updated stories on the ‘Cheras’ case)

18th Februrary2024: Bangladeshis pay much higher than peers (US$4500++) to reach Malaysia job market – syndicates, impunity and systemic forced labour

8th February 2024 – Activists: Duped Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia sought RM2m in unpaid wages, but only got half(first reported compensation settlement for Bangladesh Malaysia organised crime syndicate victims being trafficked for forced labour in Malaysia)

6th February 2024: Benar News – Malaysian Labor Court orders employers to pay Bangladeshi workers RM1 million in unpaid wages – first reported compensation settlement for Bangladesh Malaysia organised crime syndicate victims being trafficked for forced labour in Malaysia

16th January 2024: FMT – 751 duped Bangladeshi migrant workers in Pengerang case file RM2 million claim for unpaid wages resulting from situation akin to forced labour, stranded and destitute on arrival in Malaysia (includes comments by Andy Hall)

6th January 2024: 171 duped migrant workers deserve compensation, govt told (includes my full statement)

5th January 2024: New Strait Times – MCA: Don’t just fine employers, hold ministry accountable as well for unemployed foreign workers

30th December 2023: Migrants being duped into Malaysia because of govt’s failure to curb criminal trafficking syndicates and organised crime network, says activist Andy Hall

30th Decenber 2023: New Strait Times – Recruitment agencies accused of deception as Bangladeshi victims speak out on exploitation and fear

29th December 2023: Malay Mail – Set up probe on exploitation of migrant workers and new ministry to manage their affairs, Suhakam tells Putrajaya

28th Decenber 2023: FMT – Malaysia has entered ‘slave labour’ territory, says ex-MP – Charles Santiago calls for specific set-ups to manage migrant workers 

27th December 2023: New Strait Times – MTUC demand govt, MACC probe into corrupt recruitment practices of foreign workers

26th December 2023: FMT – High recruitment fees make greedy agents bring in workers, says group

25th December 2023: FMT – Probe recruitment agents, MACC told after arrest of Bangladeshis

22nd November 2023: MALAYSIAKINI – Full probe of migrant worker syndicate, Malaysian HR Minister Sivakumar says

9th November 2023: Malaysia – The State of the Nation: Flaws of foreign worker system laid bare in declassified report

5th November 2023: Malaysian HR Minister pledges nationwide operations concerning plight of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia following Andy Hall’s complaint letter to the OHCHR

30th October 2023: FMT: Andy Hall refers stranded Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia to UN Human Rights Council

23rd October 2023: RESPONSE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCES IN REGARDS TO AN ARTICLE BY MR. ANDY HALL/HR Minister – strict actions against employers who fail to comply with Malaysia’s labour and immigration laws

20th October 2023 Malaysiakini: Long-awaited foreign worker management report declassified in Malaysia (my comments added)

19th October 2023: Malaysia facing huge excess of 1/4 million migrant laborers

21st September 2023: Malaysian government has 15 source countries for foreign workers – Comments by Andy Hall

20th September 2023: Rate of abused Bangladeshi workers’ entry into Malaysia worrying, says migrant rights activist Andy Hall

12th July 2023: excellent final offering from a 4 part account of atypical modern-day slavery, forced labour and abuse perpetrated against a group of migrant workers from Bangladesh in Malaysia, written concisely and passionately by former MP from Malaysia Charles Santiago

10th July 2023 – Migrants in Malaysia: Hundreds left stranded in recruitment scam

11th April 2023: In Malaysia, migrants say they are in limbo after promised jobs fall through

25th April 2023 Sarawak Post: Malaysia And Modern Slavery – ‘PM Must Take Control’

23rd April 2023: REUTERS: Malaysia probes cases of migrant workers left jobless, without passports (with background summary and articles included in my blog post)

17th April 2023 Daily Star: Approval For Labour Recruitment – Malaysia’s transparency questioned by Bangladesh

13th April 2023: Stranded Bangladeshis endure ‘hell’ in Malaysia – The group of 35 now wants to go home after being left without jobs for months

11th Mar 2023 MALAYSIAKINI: Malaysian HR Minister Sivakumar – Zero checks for migrant quota approvals only until March 2023

13th Feb 2023: My Perspective published by FMT – ‘Time to address corruption in Malaysia’s migrant worker management’

10th Jan 2023: ‘Bangladeshi recruitment cartels’ grip must end’ – Govt now acting on billion-ringgit ‘human trafficking syndicates’

1st Oct 2022 Malay Mail: PM Anwar says Putrajaya to Ease Rules on Hiring Migrant Workers

7th July 2022 The Vibes: How Bestinet courted controversy over migrant worker recruitment – MACC’s raid on IT company once again casts spotlight on alleged hiring monopoly

June 2022 The Star: Human Traffickers made RM2 billion through syndicate smuggling in over 100,000 workers from Bangladesh

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