12th March 2024: SCMP – Malaysia to slash migrant workforce amid intolerance, job scam crisis involving Bangladeshi labourers

SCMP - Malaysia to slash migrant workforce amid intolerance, job scam crisis involving Bangladeshi labourers

12th March 2024: SCMP – Malaysia to slash migrant workforce amid intolerance, job scam crisis involving Bangladeshi labourers

Malaysia has plan to slash migrant workforce amid intolerance and a job scam crisis in the country involving Bangladeshi laborer’s.

  • Rights groups allege tens of thousands of Bangladeshis have been tricked into coming to Malaysia over non-existent jobs and now face further exploitation
  • A ‘drastic reduction’ in migrant worker numbers would cause companies to rush to bring in new labourers, a migrant activist warns

Original Source: SCMP by Hadi Azmi – 11th March 2024

Malaysia will slash the number of low-skilled migrant labour it allows in the coming years, the economy ministry has said, as intolerance grows towards its burgeoning overseas workers amid a job scam crisis across the country’s Bangladeshi labour market.

Brought in during the 1980s to jump-start Malaysia’s economic boom, migrant workers were instrumental in the rapid growth of the country’s gleaming skyscrapers and infrastructure projects.

But they are now being seen by many among the country’s 30 million population as low-paid competition, with Bangladeshi workers in particular becoming an easy scapegoat for social and economic ills, including taking Malaysian jobs, that easily teeter towards xenophobia despite their essential role in building the economy.

Rafizi Ramli, Malaysia’s economy minister. Photo: Bloomberg

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Minister of Economy Rafizi Ramli said Malaysia would set a course for a “drastic and significant reduction” in the number of foreign workers as part of its next five-year plan for 2026 to 2031.

“We need to be committed to reducing the numbers of low-skilled migrant workers in our country,” Rafizi said.

His comments come as rights groups allege tens of thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers have been brought in under false pretences and now languish in immigration detention centres, or have been forced into seeking jobs illegally to pay off debts to employment agencies in both Malaysia and Bangladesh who tricked them into emigrating.

Since December, Malaysia has seen reports of thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of migrant workers being lured into Malaysia over lucrative job opportunities, only to find out after arriving in the country that the jobs promised are non-existent.

On February 27, a construction company fell under investigation after authorities rescued 93 Bangladeshi migrant workers from a derelict shophouse in Kuala Lumpur, who were brought in by the company under a quota scheme but ended up without work or income.

This came after 171 other Bangladeshi workers in the oil and gas hub town of Pengerang, Johor, marched to a police station to lodge a report against their employers accused of similarly duping them into coming to Malaysia.

A migrant worker collects bunches of palm oil fresh fruit during harvest at a plantation in Selangor, Malaysia, in June 2022. Photo: Reuters

Staffing plantations, manufacturing and construction, as well as security and domestic help, there are up to 3.2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, according to research by the World Bank. That includes up to 1.4 million who are deemed “irregular”, who have entered the country with a valid working visa but now work unauthorised, often exposed to the sharp end of labour abuses and job scams.

Rafizi said the National Economic Action Council would start next month to discuss how to wean the country off its addiction to cheap migrant labour.

The government has already capped the intake of new migrant workers to a target of 2.55 million, with a deadline of May 31 set as the last day for employers to bring in new workers into the country.

On Friday, Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution said there were currently 2.13 million migrant workers in active employment in the country based on immigration department records, with a quota of 412,011 new migrant workers opened to fill in the remaining jobs.

“The projection of migrant workers in our country for 2024 can hit the ceiling set by the economic ministry as early as May 31, 2024,” Saifuddin said.

The ceiling figure is based on a formula which sets the maximum number of migrant workers at 15 per cent of the country’s labour force, which stands at 17 million for 2024.

Malaysian police raid against illegal migrant workers fuels ‘xenophobic’ views: 25 Dec 2023

The government has also been engaging in a rehiring and repatriation programme for mainly Bangladeshi workers who have paid several thousand dollars to work in Malaysia only to find the jobs do not exist, forcing them into overstaying and risking legal action and further exploitation as they seek new work.

In parliament on Monday, former deputy finance minister Mohd Shahar Abdullah warned that Bangladeshis would dominate Malaysia’s workforce and pose a threat to Malaysian incomes over time – despite only arriving in such large numbers because of unscrupulous Malaysian agents and firms.

“We are no longer competing among Malaysians, but instead with non-citizens who came into our country as unskilled labour but have now grown to be entrepreneurs,” Mohd Shahar said. “Ultimately, the [Bangladeshis] will dominate.”

Migrant workers wait to use the toilet at their dormitory in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 2022. Photo: Reuters

Amid the rising anti-migrant vitriol, migrant activist Andy Hall warned that slamming the door shut on new arrivals would create a rush for companies to bring in workers.

That is in part to staff future work, as well as to exploit well-worn routes which see Bangladeshi workers pay vast sums to move to non-existent jobs.

“Recruited workers, already so vulnerable, could fall victim again to unscrupulous recruitment intermediaries and unethical recruitment agencies, and become jobless and destitute on arrival,” Hall said.

Home Minister Saifuddin said the government had terminated the services of employment agencies to curb abuse of the system, adding that companies who needed workers should now deal directly with immigration agencies.

“Employers should make full use of this and expedite the process,” the ministry said.

“The ball is in the employer’s court.”

11th March 2024: FMT – Reducing migrant workers will empower Bumi businesses, says Rafizi

Original Source: FMT by Mikha Chan – 11th March 2024

The economy minister says the National Economic Action Council meeting next month will discuss a special mechanism to reduce migrant worker numbers in stages.

Background Reading:

Edge 11th Mar 2024: National Economic Action Council to discuss gradual reduction of migrant workers in next month’s meeting, says Rafizi

FMT 11th Mar 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

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

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

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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