DHAKA (ANN): The government doesn’t want to send Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia before a low-cost and transparent system of recruitment comes into place, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said.
“If I allow high charges for recruitment (of Bangladeshi workers abroad), I will betray my constituents, ” he told a press conference at the ministry on Sunday (Jan 5).
The biggest challenge facing overseas job sector is the high recruitment cost.
In 2016 and 2018, Bangladeshi workers were charged up to Tk 4 lakh (RM19,000) for jobs in Malaysia, he said at the event organised by Reporters for Bangladeshi Migrants.
Malaysia suspended recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in September 2018, alleging that a cartel of 10 Bangladeshi recruiting agents patronised by several influential politicians of previous Malaysian government was charging exorbitant sums of money from migrant workers.
Despite several negotiation meetings between officials of the two countries over the last year, the market has not opened yet.
Members of the cartel had passed the blame onto illegal manpower brokers in Malaysia and Bangladesh.
Imran Ahmad has been expressing similar views, but he has not taken any concrete action to legalise the brokers or eliminate them from the recruitment system.
Asked, the minister said if the system was transparent, the brokers’ involvement would have disappeared. But he didn’t clarify what he meant by a “transparent system”.
He said the government had asked the recruiting agencies to recognise the brokers. The ministry will get them registered and will be able to hold them accountable when they do something illegal.
“My prime target is to ensure that the workers can go abroad by spending an amount set (by the authorities).”
He didn’t say what that sum could be.
According to a 2015 World Bank study, Bangladeshi migrants pay the highest amount of money for recruitment, but get one of the lowest wages. Researchers say the workers often remain in debt.
In many cases, they are sent abroad with forged work visas and then remain undocumented or return home empty-handed.
Globally, the UN is promoting zero cost migration, which means that the fees incurred due to migration will be borne by the employer. Neighbouring Nepal follows this policy and has a corresponding labour agreement with Malaysia.
Imran has never spoken of ensuring zero cost migration.
Expatriates’ Welfare Secretary Salim Reza said a total of 701,000 Bangladeshis migrated abroad for jobs last year, which is 51,000 more than that of the previous year. Forty-four percent of those who migrated last year were skilled workers.
Besides, 111,000 were women, and some 50% of them were either divorced or left by their husbands. This has prompted the government to ensure better protection of women migrants, Salim said.
Abuses faced by women migrants in Saudi Arabia were widely reported at home and abroad. Salim said they negotiated with Saudi Arabia and ensured that the employers accused of abusing women migrants were brought to justice.
He said the remittance sent by Bangladeshi migrants last year was US$18bil, which is 16.2% more than that of the previous year. He added that the growth can be attributed to the government’s 2% incentive on the remittance.
A total of 214 recruiting agencies were accused last year of not ensuring protection of female domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and violation of laws, he said. Licence of one agency was revoked and two other agencies were suspended.
A total of 3,658 dead bodies of Bangladeshi migrants arrived last year, he said. - The Daily Star/Asia News Network