Malaysia based migrant and human rights network organizations --CARAM Asia, TENAGANITA and North South Initiatives have called upon Bangladesh and Malaysia governments to strictly regulate and reform recruitment process with transparency and integrity.
In a message, those NGOs said that ‘as Malaysia hosted a joint working group meeting in Kuala Lumpur on May 30-31 to work out the new recruitment plan for Bangladeshi migrant workers who come to Malaysia to work, we hope that an accountable and transparent recruitment plan is established at this joint meeting in order to provide the adequate protection for migrant workers. ;
The fact that civil society is not consulted in this process raises too many questions. As Malaysia and Bangladesh are currently in negotiations for recruitment, it is important we analyse the root causes of the abuses caused by non-transparent dubious recruitment practices seen in the past.
CARAM Asia and its members Tenaganita and North South Initiative, migrant rights NGOS who work closely with migrant workers in Malaysia, are concerned by the continuous ill-treatment towards migrants workers and their rights violations starting from sending country and particularly by agents and employers in Malaysia.
There are approximately 6 million migrant workers in Malaysia and out of this number; there are around one million (1,000,000) both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi workers most of whom are vulnerable to exploitation.
Migrant workers continue to face numerous problems and they are the easy target for exploitation. Even workers who come with proper documentations are also subjected to various forms of violations.
Malaysia and Bangladesh must give due recognition and dignity to the millions of migrant workers who make invaluable contribution towards Malaysia’s economy and also to their countries of origin. The non-existence of a comprehensive policy for the recruitment and employment of migrant workers has contributed to the continuous abuse of migrant workers including increasing their risk of being trafficked and exploited into forced labour conditions, especially those who are undocumented. It is estimated that there are between 2 to 4 million undocumented workers in Malaysia.
From the cases our member organizations have managed, we found that both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi workers face various degrees and types of abuses. Due to the abnormally high fees paid by Bangladeshi workers to come to Malaysia in comparison to other nationalities, Bangladeshi workers’ risks of being abused are much higher.
Malaysia must adopt governance with integrity especially in the recruitment of migrant workers. The system of recruiting foreign workers through labour agents should be abolished and recruitment should be done via a government mechanism which requires government entities in both countries to manage the selection and placement of workers.
This could highly lessen the probability of migrant workers accepting deceptive terms of employment and also reduce the abuses. It is very clear that the labour recruiters from both country of origin and destination have taken advantage of people desperately seeking employment opportunities by imposing exorbitant recruitment fees.
We need to identify and eradicate these irresponsible and unscrupulous syndicate or individuals with intentions to cheat the migrant workers and they should be prosecuted. We should ensure that past mistakes on the recruitment of migrant workers are not repeated as it will impact millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers.
History has shown that the migrant workers situation will not improve unless both the Governments especially the Malaysian Government pays attention to recruitment issues in a holistic manner.
Governments should include and involve CSOs & other stake holders in the planning process from the very beginning of negotiations. The CARAM Asia network is extremely concerned about migrant workers’ current situation in Malaysia and expects the new government to consider migrants’ human rights in line with international human rights standards.
CARAM Asia, Tenaganita and North South Initiative have formulated the following recommendations to the government of Malaysia and Bangladesh to regulate the recruitment process and strongly urge both the governments of origin and destination countries to urgently put in place a new recruitment plan which will provide migrants with holistic rights protection.
• To have consultations with community groups and grassroots organization leading up to the plan of action.
• To eliminate middlemen and agents through labour suppliers and facilitate the hiring process under the government as the primary means by which workers are recruited into Malaysia in a manner that is transparent and accountable as well as evidence- and rights-based.
• Bi lateral agreement of two countries instead of MOU and the agreement preparation with consultations with CSOs and other stakeholders of both countries.
• Strengthen labour inspection services to monitor working conditions, ensure compliance with employment contracts, and detect incidences of forced labour practices. These should apply to all migrant workers regardless of immigration status.
• Establish a multi-stakeholder inclusive system to allow the identified cheated victims especially those already in the country but became undocumented for no fault of their own, the opportunity to enter the labour force through a transparent regularization system at low cost with placement into appropriate jobs with the workers consent;
• Enact a comprehensive policy for migration, placement and employment of migrant workers in Malaysia(and other destination countries), so that labour trafficking and modern day slavery can be curbed immediately with strict enforcement to crackdown on racketeers / errant employers who are to be brought to justice;
• The Government of Bangladesh should take a holistic view of all Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia, ensuring their protection regardless of their legal status. Granting their fellow citizens identification papers and quick verification processes would surely help with the reduction of undocumented workers in the country, based on humanitarian and human rights principles.
• Global industries are following the principles of zero migration cost. Bangladesh and Malaysia must follow it for the sake of labour rights and good business.
• The undocumented migrants should be regularised and absorbed into the labour market. Only then should the government think of fresh recruitments.
• Governments must recognize migrant’s enormous contributions to the development of their countries and ensure that human rights are respected for all peoples at all times;