Reports that many Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia are going hungry as they have lost jobs due to the pandemic are very disconcerting. As it is a serious humanitarian crisis affecting the country's foreign-currency earners in a foreign land, it demands immediate attention from the authorities concerned. According to reports, both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia are in dire straits because the country is under lockdown amid the third of wave of the pandemic. Since their employers in the private sector including construction companies, super shops, wholesale markets and small farms have temporarily shuttered their business activities due to the lockdown, these workers have in most cases been terminated from work. A small segment of them which is being paid is getting only a part of their actual pays.
Some local charities including a body run by Bangladeshi volunteers in Malaysia are learnt to have been arranging food for such workers in distress. But the service could be reached only to those workers who the said charity could contact. Condition of others who could not be contacted by the charities in question is unknown. Indeed, the humanitarian service being rendered by those charities is invaluable and deserves commendation. But, at the same time, one cannot also expect that a humanitarian crisis of this scale can be fully addressed by some private efforts with their limited resources. Since the uncertainties in the lives of those jobless workers have been persisting for months, the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia needs to intervene and find out the reality on the ground regarding those jobless migrant workers. It could be gathered that officials concerned at the High Commission who know about the condition of the lockdown-affected workers are ready to extend necessary help only when the workers in need would contact them. Such response to the problem in question does not go far enough. Given the urgency of the matter, people at the Bangladesh mission in Malaysia do need to be more proactive. They should have a clear picture of the situation and be able to reach succour to every Bangladeshi worker, whether documented or not, in desperate plight in that country. It is worthwhile to keep in mind that the people in need at the moment are the selfsame ones whose hard-earned remittance money keeps the economy thriving at home. To note, the remittance from Malaysian workers in FY2018- 2019 amounted to US$1.19 billion which was 7.25 per cent of the total foreign remittance received by Bangladesh that year. As such, it has to be understood that a prompt, proactive response to those migrant workers' misfortune is more than a matter of altruism. On the contrary, it deserves to be looked upon as a humanitarian emergency.
Because their joblessness in a foreign country has a knock-on effect at home with the workers' relations who depend on their remitted dollar suffering the consequences. That in turn adds to the government's burden of addressing their economic woes. The Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia would be required to delve deeper into the problems, as reported, affecting the jobless Bangladeshi workers in their host country. Hopefully, the country's diplomats in Malaysia would be able to make the most of the existing brotherly relations with the host government and reach out to our workers there in desperate need.