Good news is coming from Malaysia. The hopes expressed by the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE) Minister Mr Imran Ahmed, on a visit to that country last week, could not be more soothing to the ear as he mentioned that the moratorium on Bangladesh workers for jobs in Malaysia would be lifted in two months. The minister said a new agreement with Malaysia for recruitment of Bangladeshi workers was likely to be concluded by next month. The new agreement would put in place a new mechanism for recruitment. The EWOE Minister assured that the new mechanism and process would be a transparent one. His acceptance of the fact that the old system was not working is forthright; his assertion that with the system that is coming, everybody will get `involved and work on it' augurs fine for the hopefuls. The Bangladesh Minister's positive words were followed by the concerned Human Resources Minster of Malaysia M. Kulasegaram's assertion last Monday that the freeze on Bangladesh workers would be gone by August next.
All these come against the background of Malaysia suspending in last September the hitherto customary method of Foreign Worker Application System that allowed recruitment through ten selected agencies. Under its ambit, every new worker had to pay the equivalent of up to Tk 0.4 million as processing fee to the respective agent. The moratorium has hit Bangladesh in terms of remittance and has as well battered Malaysia's agriculture and construction sectors, where the Bangladeshis mostly work. The 400,000 legal Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, nearly an eighth of that country's foreign work-force, are no doubt joined by a steady stream of those landing there through unscrupulous agencies and agents. These latter people care for money only without looking into the well-being and future of their clients. It is indeed a difficult time for everybody and every country involved here. The large influx of Rohiynga refuges to Bangladesh appears to give fillip to these dodgy agents who thrive on the pitiable shelter-seekers' hopeless state without a passport and education. It is not that the only refugees from Myanmar have been targeted by these swindling networks, young people from the rural countryside of Bangladesh also fall prey to them in droves. And not only in the aspired journey of salvation in Malaysia, but also to far distant lands also. However, Malaysia's case is different. It is the nearest prosperous country to us, accessible and having a porous border. And not only Bangladeshis, but also workers from Malaysia's neighbours in the various ASEAN countries throng there with or without work permits. A calculation has found out that for every documented worker, there are 2.5 undocumented ones in Malaysia.The International Labour Organisation's relevant figures are a little conservative.
Illegal workers have generated a debate in Malaysia. It has been seen as a source of crime and social unrest. And together with Malaysia, this country also stands to lose, foremost being its standing as an honest broker. While everybody would expect that our government would come down heavily on the culpable, Malaysians also need to see their side. And for this a two-way hot-line with the Malaysians is needed only because every deviant element has mostly a partner on the other side. We hope the new system that our EWOE Minister hinted at would contain stringent retribution for the guilty, while at the same time easing manpower export.