25th May 2024: Channel News Asia – Malaysia bid to revamp hiring of foreign workers through controversial BESTINET process faces pushback; activists say country’s reputation at stake

25th May 2024: Channel News Asia - Malaysia’s bid to revamp hiring of foreign workers through controversial BESTINET process faces pushback; activists say country’s reputation at stake

25th May 2024: Channel News Asia – Malaysia bid to revamp hiring of foreign workers through controversial BESTINET process faces pushback; activists say country’s reputation at stake

Malaysia has bid to revamp the hiring of foreign workers. The Anwar government is looking to change a key platform for managing migrant workers through controversial BESTINENT process. But it’s facing stiff resistance from the company behind the IT system, sources tell CNA.

Original Source: Channel News Asia by Leslie Lopez – 25th May 2024

KUALA LUMPUR: An ambitious plan by the Anwar Ibrahim government to overhaul the country’s migrant worker recruitment policies, particularly the problem-ridden employment of Bangladesh nationals, is coming under stiff resistance from industry players and segments of civil servants determined to maintain the status quo.

Pushback against the government’s migrant labour reform is coming from privately controlled Bestinet Sdn Bhd, a firm which has strong links to Malaysia’s top politicians and has long been a magnet for controversy, government sources told CNA.

The contention is over plans by the Home Ministry to replace Bestinet’s proprietary IT system that currently manages the movement of foreign labour into Malaysia, which a previous government review had concluded as riddled with abuse and mismanagement. 

Bestinet’s contract with the government to operate its so-called Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), which is the sole platform used by the country’s Immigration Department for visa applications from 15 different countries exporting labour to Malaysia, is set to expire at the end of this month, according to government sources and documents reviewed by CNA.

The company’s top management, including founder Mohamed Amin Abdul Nor, and labour agents aligned with Bestinet have been actively lobbying the Anwar government, say sources. This includes tapping their connections with Malaysia’s political elite to secure a fresh multi-year extension for the FWCMS concession.

Bestinet is determined to head off a government plan to introduce a new mechanism, administration officials and labour activists close to the situation say. 

The new system features an IT portal that has been under development for the past year and seeks to make the process of foreign labour recruitment cheaper, more transparent and minimise third-party involvement.

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‘Limit their numbers’: Malaysia’s scammed, jobless migrant workers problem highlights its foreign labour dependence

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail did not respond to requests for comment, but a senior advisor to his ministry said the matter will be discussed at the weekly Cabinet meeting before Prime Minister Anwar makes a final decision. 

Bestinet executives declined comment for this article.

High Stakes for BESTINET and Anwar 

Securing an extension to its FWCMS platform is critical to Bestinet, which is a pivotal player in the multi-billion-ringgit foreign labour recruitment sector.

The company declared a net profit of RM85.04 million (US$18 million) in end-2022, a whopping jump from a paltry RM704,432 the year earlier, according to financial information lodged at the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

The stakes are equally high for the Anwar administration. 

Malaysia, an export-dependent economy and one of the world’s top 30 trading nations, has been recruiting workers since the early 1990s and migrant labour makes up about 30 per cent of Malaysia’s workforce that is estimated at 14.5 million employees. 

But combined with the number of undocumented workers, their numbers could be as high as 38 per cent, or around 5.5 million based on unofficial estimates.

Migrant workers at a vegetable farm in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. (Photo: AFP/ Mohd Rasfan)

The migrant labour recruitment industry has long attracted domestic and international opprobrium due to collusion among politicians, enforcement agencies, recruitment companies, labour brokers and exploitative employers. 

This has resulted in Malaysia being listed with the likes of China and North Korea for its poor progress in eliminating human trafficking by the United States State Department.

Since December last year, Malaysia also has seen a wave of Bangladeshi workers being lured over by fake job opportunities. Rights groups estimate their numbers could be in the tens of thousands. 

Last month, a group of experts from the United Nations chastised the Malaysian government over the plight of the Bangladeshi workers.

The experts expressed concern that large sums of money were being generated through the fraudulent recruitment of migrant workers by criminal networks operating between Malaysia and Bangladesh. 

Migrants were being deceived, recruited by companies that are frequently fake, and obliged to pay exorbitant recruitment fees which pushes them into debt bondage, the experts said.

“The situation of Bangladeshi migrants who have lived in Malaysia for several months or longer is unsustainable and undignified,” the experts said. “Malaysia needs to take urgent measures to address the dire humanitarian situation of migrants and protect them from exploitation, criminalisation and other human rights abuses.” 

Responding days later, Bestinet defended its FWCMS system. Such cases involving Bangladeshi workers “could be avoided with proper due diligence through the FWCMS system”, chief executive officer Ismail Mohd Noor told the New Straits Times. 

By digitising and centralising steps in the hiring and management of migrant workers, the system provides visibility and traceability, mitigating the risk of exploitation and abuse, he claimed.

Bestinet’s founder Mohd Amin Abdul Nor stepped down as chairman in July 2023. Chief executive officer Ismail Mohd Noor is third from left. (Photo: Facebook/ Bestinet Sdn Bhd).

Raided in 2023

Bestinet is no stranger to controversy. 

In 2018, it was embroiled in allegations its affiliates had benefited to a tune of RM185 million between 2013 and 2018 from Nepali workers seeking to work in Malaysia. The Malaysian government suspended Bestinet’s operations, but cleared it of wrongdoing the following year.

In May 2023, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested several government officials at the Human Resource Ministry in connection with a corruption investigation involving the recruitment of migrant workers from Bangladesh. Weeks later, it raided Bestinet and questioned a number of its executives, including its controlling shareholder Mr Mohamed Amin.

So far, nothing has emerged from the MACC probe, but the Anwar administration has transferred the governance of the migrant worker procurement ecosystem from the Human Resource Ministry to the direct purview of the powerful Home Affairs Minister Saifuddin.

Mr Mohamed Amin, a former Bangladesh national who has taken up Malaysian citizenship, is said to enjoy close ties with top civil servants and politicians including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. It was during Mr Ahmad Zahid’s tenure as Home Minister under the previous Najib administration that Bestinet secured the concession to operate its FWCMS platform.

But the company’s relations with the Home Ministry under Mr Saifuddin has been less-than-cosy.

Mr Saifuddin has made no secret of his displeasure with the current migrant labour recruitment system. During an official visit to Bangladesh in February last year, Mr Saifuddin met with members of the Bangladeshi Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) in Dhaka. He acknowledged he was unhappy with the recruitment systems in place and that elements of graft needed to be wiped out.

BAIRA has more than 1,500 members operating in the country but only 100 agencies with close ties to Bestinet and accredited by the Malaysian government have a stranglehold on the recruitment of workers to Malaysia. 

BAIRA’s chairman Mohammed Abul Basher told CNA that the government is handling negotiations with Malaysia directly over the plan to revamp the current recruitment process. He declined to elaborate.

Unscrupulous Agents, Brokers

Malaysia’s foreign labour recruitment system had long been a hotbed of unscrupulous agents and labour brokers working with counterparts in countries providing the manpower. 

In a bid to bring more order to the labour recruitment sector, the government of now-jailed former premier Najib Razak awarded Bestinet a contract in 2013 to assist the Home Affairs and Human Resource ministries in the recruitment of foreign labour for Malaysian companies.

Under the so-called FWCMS, companies in various sectors of the economy would submit applications on their labour needs and Bestinet would help in the sourcing from 15 countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Myanmar, India and Vietnam.

But the FWCMS platform did not stem mismanagement, resulting in foreign labour applicants being exploited by a convoluted set of players in both the host and exporting countries. 

Malaysia tackling scams affecting thousands of migrant workers | Video
Emptier streets in parts of Kuala Lumpur as migrants shy away after raids targeting illegal foreign workers

The problems are particularly acute with the labour from Bangladesh, noted labour activists.

It is estimated that there are around 400,000 Bangladeshis who are employed in various economic sectors in Malaysia. But labour activists noted that the figure could be four times higher if illegal workers are accounted for.

Typically, a single Bangladeshi recruit pays roughly RM20,000 to a cast of players and the hefty fee involved is often settled through loans provided by other agents.

These loans often lock workers into years of a debt bondage that can only be paid by working long hours and accepting dismal work and living conditions.

Despite the controversy surrounding Bestinet, the company received an extension in January 2018 to operate the FWCMS platform for another six years from the then-Najib government.

That award, however, came under a cloud following the change of government after the May 2018 general election. 

A new government-appointed task force that was set up after the 2018 national pollsto review foreign worker management protocols concluded that the entire recruitment system for Bangladeshis was riddled with mismanagement and corruption. It also recommended that the platform operated by Bestinet be overhauled. 

But the subsequent political strife in Malaysia, which saw the change of three administrations until Mr Anwar took power in November 2022, allowed Bestinet to operate uninterrupted.

Government officials involved in the labour reform plans noted that Home Minister Saifuddin is leaning towards a new system designed to limit third-party involvement to its minimum and match the labour needs of the country’s economic sectors, such as the construction, plantation, and maintenance services, with supply from countries eager to export their workforce. 

Proponents of the supply-demand platform noted that levies for applicants from Bangladesh could fall below RM10,000 per person. 

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is seen here with Human Resources Minister Steven Sim at the national-level Labour Day celebrations on May 1, 2024 and how he deals with the Bestinet concession will have major ramifications for the domestic economy. (Photo: Facebook/Anwar Ibrahim) 

BESTINET – Precarious Situation?

Mr Charles Santiago, a former elected Member of Parliament who is part of a government-private sector working committee involved in bringing change to the country’s migrant labour recruitment system, told CNA that Malaysia is in a very precarious situation and the government needs to urgently reform the sector and end Bestinet’s stranglehold.

“The statements coming out from UN agencies are clear signs that the country has crossed the line over the issue of forced labour with migrant workers,” he added.

Agreeing, Mr Andy Hall, a Nepal-based labour activist who has done extensive work on the migrant labour situation in Malaysia, said: “The system is broken and the situation in Malaysia is no longer (just) a human rights issue involving forced labour that borders on slavery.”

Mr Santiago is pushing for the Malaysian government to stop accepting workers from the South Asian nation until shortcomings in the recruitment process can be properly addressed.

“Not only is the system here in the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers a problem, the system at the other end is also very rotten because there are so many layers of agents and brokers that simply exploit recruits,” he said.

There could be more bad news for Malaysia in the coming weeks, with the US State Department set to issue its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. 

Mr Hall noted that Malaysia’s failure to combat the serious shortcomings in the migrant labour recruitment process, despite repeated red flags raised by UN experts and international agencies, could lead to the country being downgraded to Tier 3 on the watch list, which exposes the economy to the risk of sanctions, from Tier 2 currently. 

The TIP Report is a closely tracked assessment that evaluates global trafficking trends and focuses on government efforts in prosecution, protection and prevention.

Malaysia was downgraded to Tier 3 in 2021 and 2022, a status that led to five companies being slapped with export bans to the US.

The companies included glove manufacturer Top Glove and Supermax, together with plantation giants Sime Darby and FGV Holdings Bhd. The bans have since been lifted.

See also: Commentary: Anwar faces political tricky situation in tackling migrant labour issues
See also: Malaysia’s Sime Darby Plantation to compensate migrant workers over fees
See also: US bans Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby over forced labour

Source: CNA/lo

22nd May 2024: UN expert – Malaysian law enforcement mixing up human trafficking, migrant smuggling – “What steps has Malaysia taken to investigate alleged complicity of public officials in human trafficking?’’

Source: HERE

UN forum is told that such confusion can lead to traffickers getting away with lesser employment-related charges in the courts

Original Source: FMT by Predeep Nambiar – 22nd May 2024

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s battle against human trafficking is being undermined by a critical issue within its law enforcement practices, a United Nations forum heard.

According to human rights and anti-trafficking expert Corrine Dettmeijer, law enforcement agencies here are mixing up human trafficking with migrant smuggling.

She was speaking at a Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) high-level dialogue in Geneva, which was aired live online today.

Dettmeijer, a former rapporteur on human trafficking and sexual violence against children, said this “misidentification” severely hampered enforcement of anti-trafficking laws and the proper identification of trafficked women and girls.

“The state party has increased its efforts in prosecuting human trafficking through the amended Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act,” she said.

“However, law enforcement often conflates trafficking with migrant smuggling, which undermines the identification and protection of trafficking victims,” she said.

This mix-up, she said, resulted in human trafficking exploiting labour, potentially facing lesser penalties under the Employment Act 1955, instead of the harsher penalties prescribed under the anti-trafficking laws.

“Trafficking and smuggling are distinct crimes with different impacts on victims. Effective enforcement requires a clear understanding and differentiation between the two,” she said.

Dettmeijer also highlighted corruption within government ranks.

“Government officials have been reported to profit from bribes, and the extortion and exploitation of migrants. This increases the cost of migration and consequently increases migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking through debt-based coercion.

“What steps has Malaysia taken to investigate and address the alleged complicity of public officials in human trafficking?” she asked.

Dettmeijer asked how these practices aligned with the country’s national action plan on anti-trafficking in persons (2021-2025), which focused on victim protection.

The Malaysian delegation at the meeting said the government was committed to investigating these allegations and strengthening anti-trafficking measures.

Meanwhile, Cedaw committee member Bandana Rana asked about dress codes imposed on Muslim women in Malaysia.

“The special rapporteur on cultural rights has highlighted the impact of a de facto dress code for Malaysian Muslim women in many contexts.

“What steps are being taken to ensure that dress codes are not made mandatory and that women have the freedom to choose the attire they wish to wear?” she asked, adding that a woman’s right to personal expression and freedom of choice must be protected.

In response, Zurshida Murni Abd Hamid from the Attorney-General’s Chambers said the government had no laws on dress codes.

“While guidelines have been introduced to ensure decorum, the government does not impose any dress code by way of laws for the public or in government offices,” she said, adding that freedom of expression, including the choice of attire, was protected under the Federal Constitution.

20th May 2024 FMT: Duped Bangladeshi workers won’t impact Malaysia’s US Human trafficking report ranking, says HR Minister Sim

Caption: Human resources minister Steven Sim says action has been taken, jointly with the home minister, against employers who promise non-existent jobs to Bangladeshi workers.

Original Source: FMT by Faisal Asyraf – 22nd May 2024

The human resources minister says Bangladeshi workers were not trafficked, but were victims of employers who abused their quotas.

PUTRAJAYA: Incidents of Bangladeshi workers being duped into travelling to Malaysia for non-existent jobs will not impact the upcoming Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, human resources Steven Sim said.

Sim brushed off such concerns as the foreigners had not been trafficked.

“It is an abuse of the quota by employers,” he told reporters, referring to quota applications to hire migrant workers.

“We have taken action, along with the home minister, since December, including against the employers.”

Sim was speaking to reporters after attending a joint committee meeting between the home ministry and his ministry on the management of foreign workers. Also present was home minister Saifuddin Ismail Nasution.

He was asked to comment on activists’ fears that Malaysia was at risk of being downgraded to Tier 3 in the TIP Report, expected to be published next month, in view of criticisms by UN experts and major international agencies, alongside concerns of recruitment quota fraud.

The TIP Report, published by the US Department of State, is an annual assessment that evaluates global trafficking trends, focusing on government efforts in prosecution, protection and prevention.

Malaysia is on Tier 2 (watch list) of the ranking, placing it among countries that do not fully comply with US minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so.

The plight of Bangladeshi workers, who now account for the lion’s share of migrant labour in Malaysia, has taken centre stage recently.

Early this month, three international organisations expressed concern over allegations that some of these workers were duped into coming to Malaysia on promises of non-existent jobs.

Sim said his ministry has been working “very hard” to ensure there is no abuse of policies related to hiring migrant workers.

14th May 2024: FMT – Activists warn of US trafficking report downgrade for Malaysia amid UN criticism

By Andy Hall / 14/05/2024 / 16 minutes of reading

bangla raid PATI

14th May 2024: FMT – Activists warn of US trafficking report downgrade for Malaysia amid UN criticism (includes my full public statement calling for a Tier 3 downgrade for Malaysia)

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall highlights US trafficking report and says Malaysia’s failure to tackle labour trafficking could lead to a drop to Tier 3 in the upcoming US TIP report.

Original Source: FMT by Jason Thomas and Amirul Aiman – 14th May 2024 

PETALING JAYA: Activists fear Malaysia is at risk of being downgraded to Tier 3 in the upcoming Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in view of criticisms by UN experts and major international agencies, alongside concerns of recruitment quota fraud.

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall said Malaysia’s systemic failure to effectively combat labour trafficking justified an immediate downgrade in the TIP report issued by the US State Department.

Hall claimed that despite repeated red flags raised to Malaysian authorities on allegations of trafficking, there has been little to no action on their part.

Most of these cases have also been shared with the US State Department, he told FMT.nullPlay

“Based on many years of unsuccessful engagement with the Malaysian government on these and other similar cases of alleged human trafficking and forced labour, I conclude that a failed migrant work management and recruitment system persists in the country,” he said.

He claimed the system fostered impunity, lacked adherence to the rule of law and provided little to no accountability over the plight of victims.

The TIP Report is an annual assessment that evaluates global trafficking trends, focusing on government efforts in prosecution, protection and prevention.

Malaysia is now on Tier 2 (watch list) of the ranking, placing it among countries that do not fully comply with US minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so.

The country’s ranking was upgraded to Tier 2 (watch list) last year after being downgraded to Tier 3 – which put it at risk of possible export sanctions – in 2021. Malaysia was in Tier 3 in 2022 as well.

The plight of Bangladeshi workers, who now account for the lion’s share of migrant labour in Malaysia, has taken centre stage lately.

Early this month, three international organisations expressed concern over allegations that some of these workers were duped into coming to Malaysia on promises of non-existent jobs.

The International Organization for Migration, International Labour Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said they were ready to support efforts to meet the immediate needs of those stranded.

The three organisations said their efforts would include enhancing the migrant workers’ access to justice and basic services as well as long-term efforts to find rights-based and sustainable solutions to their problem.

In April, a group of experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council urged Malaysia to enhance protection for Bangladeshi migrant workers who have been lured into the country with false promises of jobs.

This was in response to multiple reports of migrants being deceived into signing up for jobs in non-existent companies in Malaysia.

These workers put themselves at risk of being detained, mistreated and deported.

Hall described human resources minister Steven Sim’s assurances of action as “woefully inadequate”.

Sim had announced last Thursday that a special unit within the labour department would be set up to address complaints from migrant workers.

Hall said there was already a pattern of lacklustre engagement and insufficient measures to address the core issues.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia migrant desk coordinator Mohana Rani Rasiah warned that the government’s “sluggish and ineffective” response to the migrant worker issue will further diminish Malaysia’s reputation on the international stage.

“The recruitment quota fraud crisis is bound to affect our ranking. There is an urgent need for new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help labour departments address the grievances of victims,” she said.

Mohana said enforcement agencies also need to adopt new SOPs to protect the highly vulnerable workers, especially those whose passports have been confiscated.

“Putrajaya must not show any leniency to the perpetrators. We must ensure justice for the workers and their families,” she added.

14th May 2024: FMT – Malaysia berisiko turun taraf laporan TIP, aktivis beri amaran (Malaysian language version)

Original Source: FMT by Jason Thomas and Amirul Aiman – 14th May 2024

Aktivis hak migran Andy Hall berkata kegagalan kerajaan menangani pemerdagangan buruh boleh menyebabkan Malaysia jatuh ke Tahap 3 dalam laporan TIP akan datang.

For Immediate Release 14th May 2024 – Malaysia: Tier 3 on US TIP Report

Statement by Andy Hall, Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist

In June 2023, the Malaysian government was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch-List in the US Department of State’s Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. 

Malaysia 2024 TIP statement FINAL TWO.docxDownload

The report outlined that although some improvements were seen in counter-trafficking efforts, ‘Delays in prosecution, insufficient interagency coordination and inadequate services for victims discouraged them from remaining in Malaysia to participate in criminal proceedings and continued to hinder successful anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.”

Throughout 2023 and early 2024, during the 2024 TIP report reporting period (1st Apr 2023 to 31st Mar 2024), I brought numerous cases to the attention of the Malaysian Minister of Human Resources. Most of these cases have been shared with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the US Department of Labour and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

Many of these cases concern an alleged criminal syndicate trafficking hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia, who remain stranded without work until today. 

These workers have been recruited on false promises of jobs and charged exorbitant fees and costs. These cases involve: violations to the physical safety and security of the workers; passport retention and ransom taking; deplorable living conditions; unpaid wages; and debt bondage resulting from extortionate recruitment related costs extracted involving cross border financial crimes, bribery and corruption. 

Following submission of these complaints and much media publicity, no effective action has been taken by the Malaysian government to: protect and assist victims; remediate their suffering; or to hold employers, recruitment intermediaries or government officials who authorised and were complicit in this alleged criminal and corrupt trafficking and forced labour syndicate accountable. 

In April 2024, following twelve months of widespread reporting of this situation, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) raised concerns.

Highlighting conditions which workers from Bangaladesh in Malaysia are facing, the UN Special Rapporteurs for Modern Slavery, Trafficking in Persons, Human Rights of Migrants and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rightscalled on Bangladesh and Malaysia to identify and protect and assist victims of exploitation and to enforce existing legal protections against trafficking in persons. The joint statement also highlighted both government’s failures to hold certain high-level officials involved in this abusive situation accountable. 

In May 2024, in an exclusive statement issued to FMT news portal, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) likewise raised similar concerns for Bangaldeshi migrant workers in Malaysia and pledged support to the Government to address this crisis. 

In the joint statement, IOM, ILO and UNODC highlighted Malaysia had ratified the Protocol of 2014 to the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930, thereby renewing its commitment to fight against forced labour in all its forms, including trafficking in persons and debt bondage, and to ensure workers have access to justice and effective legal remedies.

Media reports on 10th May 2024 outline the first public reaction by Malaysia to this international condemnation. The Minister of Human Resources, Steven Sim, announced the Labour Department would set up a special unit handling migrant workers’ grievances, without specifying any details or a timeline. As with previous lack of engagement and response, this proposal, whilst welcome, is woefully inadequate. 

In late 2023 and early 2024 when 171 Bangladeshi workers who were left stranded without jobs in Pengerang attempted to lodge complaints, they were arrested and detained. The Minister’s involvement led to a similar statement about ‘efforts that will be taken.’ Most of these workers remain uncompensated, unemployed and in situations akin to acute modern slavery. 

Likewise more than 100 Bangladeshi workers left stranded without jobs in Cheras and in destitution were taken to the only Malaysian government shelter for victims of human trafficking in Melaka in February 2024. After the Minister’s commitments to support the victims and hold accountable those involved in any wrongdoing, and after weeks of involuntary detention, the workers were released back to their employer. Most remain unemployed and destitute until this day.

When several workers in March 2024 recently sought to challenge their abusive situation in the Beaks case, both workers and PSM, the support organisation assisting them on the ground, became the target of alleged physical abuse and SLAPP litigation. Again, most of the victims in this case, despite the Minister’s claims to address their plight, remain destitute and unemployed. 

Two US CBP withhold release orders remain active after almost 3 years on Malaysian gloves and palm oil products, blocking Brightway Holdings Sdn Bhd and FGV Holdings Berhad from exporting to the U.S. due to forced labour concerns.

Based on many years of unsuccessfully engaging the Malaysian government on these and many other similar cases of alleged human trafficking and forced labour, I conclude that a failed migrant work management and recruitment system continues to exist in the country that promotes impunity, is devoid of the rule of law and is systemically corrupt. There is little to no accountability for this dire situation, and no remediation at all of its victims. 

Malaysia’s systemic inability to meaningfully combat labour trafficking, ensure remediation of victims and accountability of perpetrators warrants its immediate downgrade to Tier 3 in the upcoming 2024 U.S. Department of State TIP Report.

Background Reading

22nd May 2024: UN expert – Malaysian law enforcement mixing up human trafficking, migrant smuggling – “What steps has Malaysia taken to investigate alleged complicity of public officials in human trafficking?’’

20th May 2024 FMT: Duped Bangladeshi workers won’t impact Malaysia’s US Human trafficking report ranking, says HR Minister Sim

Malay Mail 17th May 2024: Pengerang employer to face Labour Court in Malaysia after failing for months to pay Bangladeshi workers’ wages over RM1m (government statements and my comments included – months on, court agreed mediation settlement unforced, workers allegedly remain in situation akin to acute modern slavery)

16th May 2024: Firm that left over 700 Bangladeshi workers to dry in Pengerang facing possible prosecution (months on, court agreed mediation settlement unforced, workers allegedly remain in situation akin to acute modern slavery)

14th May 2024: FMT Activists warn of US trafficking report downgrade for Malaysia amid UN criticism

May 10th 2024 The Star: Malaysian Government responds to OHCHR, IOM, ILO and UNODC joint condemnation on alleged Bangaldeshi migrant worker criminal syndicate by pledging to set up special unit handling migrant workers’ grievances, says HR Minister Sim

9th May 2024: Study: 96% of Bangladeshi workers going to Malaysia fall into recruitment debt– The study also said that 82% had two or more loans and 73% of workers spent at least 50% to 100% of their monthly salary to repay recruitment debts

4th May 2024: UN agencies concerned over Bangladeshi workers stranded in Malaysia – Joint Statement of ILO, IOM and UNODC on Alleged Criminal Syndicate Trafficking Bangladeshi Workers for Forced Labour in Malaysia

24th April 2024: Address plight of duped Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia in response to UN warning, govt told (more on the ongoing saga of an alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi migrant workers for forced labour in Malaysia)

19th April 2024: UN (OHCHR) Statement on Alleged Criminal Syndicate Trafficking Bangladeshi Workers for Forced Labour in Malaysia – ‘Malaysia: Bangladeshi workers must be protected from exploitation and criminalisation, say UN experts’

FMT 19th April 2024: UN experts sound alarm over plight of duped Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia

For more on Andy Hall’s complaint to the OHCHR see 30th Oct 2023: FMT: Andy Hall refers stranded Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia to UN Human Rights Council

See Daily Star 23rd Apr 2024: Bangladesh Plight of Migrant Workers – Bangladesh, Malaysia working group meeting likely in May

See Daily Star Editorial 23rd Apr 2024: When even legal migrants suffer – Workers migrating to Malaysia legally deserve better protection 

Business Standard 23rd April 2024: Expat Ministry reviews UN complaints on Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia

Prothomalo 23rd April 2024: Bangladesh – Ministry reviewing allegations over Malaysia labour market

BenarNews Malay Language: Pakar PBB gesa Malaysia tangani layanan buruk diterima pekerja Bangladesh (UN expert urges Malaysia to handle bad treatment received by Bangladeshi workers)

Daily Star 19th Apr 2024: UN experts express dismay over situation of Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia

FMT 19th Apr 2024: PSM, news portal set aside order to stop debate on migrant workers’ plight

Daily Star Editorial 17th April 2024: Save our migrants in Malaysia (more on the crisis caused by an alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia)

9th April 2024 The Star – Bangladeshi victims of criminal syndicate trafficking worked for forced labour in Malaysia: ‘Cops after workers, not rogue employers

7th April 2024: SCMP – As Malaysia’s door closes on low-paid migrant workers, companies scramble for staff (and a systemically corrupt migration management and recruitment policy, devoid of the rule of law and leading to impunity and gross exploitation, is revealed)

6th April 2024 Daily Star: A hostel of nightmares for Bangladeshi migrants allegedly trafficked by criminal syndicate for forced labour in Malaysia (and Daily Star Op Ed)

Daily Star Editorial 6th Apr 2024: What will happen to migrants abandoned in Malaysia?

26th March 2024: The Star – Freeze on foreign workers hiring quota in Malaysia stays for now, says HR Minister (with estimated 200,000+ surplus foreign workforce victims facing destitution and abuse)

25th March 2024: Bangladeshi workers (alleged victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia) claim being coerced into withdrawing police and labour complaints

Daily Star 25th Mar: Malaysia employer framed Bangladeshi workers

Daily Star 24th Mar 2024: Jailed in Malaysia – 3 Bangladesh workers released

Editorial Prothomalo 24th Mar 2024: Malaysian labour market – Take action against the fraud syndicate

FMT 23rd March 2024: PSM calls on Sim to look into arrest of Bangladeshi workers

MALAYSIAKINI 23 Mar 2024: Stranded foreign workers (alleged victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia) nabbed after labour complaints against employer

23rd March 2024 The Star: Half a million vulnerable and irregular foreign workers disappear from Malaysia’s migrant worker regularization programme as deadline looms in one week

23 Mar 2024 The Star: Verification rate lags as RTK 2.0 deadline approaches

22nd March 2024 Malay Mail: Home minister – Over RM9m in fines collected so far through migrant repatriation programme

22nd March 2024 Protomalo: Malaysian labour market set to be closed again due to syndication

20th March 2024: 93 duped/detained Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia have jobs now, says immigration DG

20th Mar 2024 Business Standard: Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia: Coalition of migration orgs demand action against recruiting agency syndicate

19th March 2024: FMT – Plantation firms wary of ‘forced labour’ concerns in hiring 200,000 surplus foreign workers/criminal syndicate victims in Malaysia, says minister – indeed he’s right, who wants to take on destitute foreign workers often with US$4-7000 in debt?

17th March 2024: FMT – Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers utterly shameful

New Age 16th Mar 2024: Bangladeshi government must mend issues to keep Malaysia job market open

15th March 2024 SCMP: Malaysians deride minister’s idea to rebrand palm oil workers as ‘specialised harvesters’

14th March 2024: The Star – Opinion: When work in Malaysia is a con – the criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshis for forced labour in Malaysia

FMT 13th March 2024: Bangladeshi migrants file police reports after falling victim to job scam/criminal syndicate trafficking workers from Bangladesh for forced labour in Malaysia

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

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 

9th March 2024: Malay Mail – Activists warn rushed 31st March 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 Mar 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

Mar 5 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

Mar 3rd 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Oct 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 Oct 2023 Malaysiakini: Long-awaited foreign worker management report declassified in Malaysia (my comments added)

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

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

20th Sep 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

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

Reuters 11th Apr 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

FMT 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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