Labour migration to Malaysia: Govt. to make private sector accountable, says C R Abrar

C R Abrar is a professor of International Relations Department at Dhaka University. Along with a few colleagues he founded the Refugee and Migratory Movements and Research Unit (RMMRU) about two decades ago. The Unit carries out surveys and research and is engaged in policy advocacy and makes recommendations for the improved governance of the migration sector. By sending short-term migrants to different countries including Middle Eastern region, Bangladesh earns nearly $15 billion annually.    

Malaysia has become one of the largest labour recipient countries in the Southeast Asian region. Around 600,000 Bangladeshi migrants have been working in the Southeast Asian nation. Recently the Malaysian authority has announced that it will recruit 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh.     

The special news portal has recently talked to Prof. C R Abrar at RMMRU office in the capital on recent development on the Malaysian labour market. Rabiul Islam, Editor of the news portal, took the interview. How do you view the recent development of Malaysian labour market?

C R Abrar: I have learnt from the government sources that Malaysia will recruit 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh in the next three years.  Several rounds of discussions have taken place between the two countries. If the workers are recruited adhering to the terms and conditions that both governments will agree on and are sent under proper care and adequate monitoring then it will be immensely beneficial to all concerned. For Bangladesh it will be an opportunity to move out of a situation of near stagnancy.
However, we do hope that both the governments will address the concerns expressed by the media that a vested quarter is active to reap undue benefit from this initiative. It is the responsibility of both the governments to ensure that the agreement is duly implemented. Why do you suspect over the requirement of workers in Malaysia?

C R Abrar: One of the key issues raised by certain quarters whether currently Malaysian economy has the capacity to absorb 1.5 million workers over the next three years as envisaged under this arrangement. Both governments should ensure that the recruited workers are remuneratively employed and do not meet the same fate that many Bangladeshi workers had met in 2007-2008. The government is working to sign a MoU with Malaysia to send workers through G2G plus mechanism. Under the G2G plus mechanism, the government can allow the private sector to be involved in the process. Do you support the mechanism?

C R Abrar: We always upheld the view that the private sector should be engaged and facilitated but the government should make the private sector accountable by performing its regulatory role. The details of the modalities about the role of the private sector and the government agencies are yet to be worked out by both the governments. Hence, it is difficult to comment on the issue. BAIRA as the federating body of the recruiting agencies has a major role to play in bringing about success of the new arrangement. In the recent past, the media has amply highlighted that some influential persons connected with BAIRA are engaged in self-seeking activities from the deal. BAIRA should ensure its members refrain from such activities. It should take the G2G+ agreement with Malaysia as an opportunity to present itself as a responsible trade body standing up for ethical recruitment. How much should be the migration cost?

C R Abrar: Migration cost of workers to Malaysia should not be high as the employers will bear the cost of airfare, medical cost and insurance. In this regard all transactions should be conducted through the banking channel. There are huge undocumented migrants in Malaysia. And the Southeast Asian nation has declared that it would deport them before fresh recruitment. How do you view the initiative?

C R Abrar: We have learnt from the media sources that Malaysia will recruit workers after it sends back all Bangladeshi workers in irregular status. Such a condition, if implemented, will bring fresh complexity in sending workers to Malaysia. Efforts should be made to impress the upon the Malaysian authorities that many of these workers have been cheated by their employers and agents for the second time as latter failed to process documents with the Malaysian authorities. All out efforts should be made to regularize the irregular migrants in Malaysia. These workers can be an asset to Malaysia as many have picked up the skills and language. You know, after November 24 this year, manual passports will not be granted for travel. But still thousands of migrants in Malaysia are not provided with MRP. What is your suggestion?

C R Abrar: There is a major backlog in issuance of Machine Readable Passports to Bangladeshi workers. A large number of Bangladesh migrants are likely to be stranded and face hardship unless they are issued with MRPs. The matter should receive the highest priority of all missions and the concerned ministries. The government has to treat this as a national priority.


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