Shattered Dreams Of Migrant Workers -4


Return of Jobless Workers From Malaysia

Govt misled by mission’s baseless allegations

The labour wing of the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia wrote a misleading letter to the government in August last year, saying that migrants’ rights bodies are conspiring against Bangladesh’s labour market in Malaysia and instigating workers to return home.

It wrote to the expatriates’ welfare ministry on August 21 last year that two NGOs — one based in Dhaka and the other in Kuala Lumpur — instigated 46 workers to return home though they had legal scopes to continue working.

But, the Special Branch of police in two separate investigations into the matter found those allegations baseless, while the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) in its own investigation found that the workers returned because they were not provided jobs as per the contracts they signed.

The letter signed by the second secretary (labour) at the Labour wing of bangladesh’s mission in Kuala Lumpur, Mohammad Masudul Hasan, says: “Return of so many workers at a time in a single flight is fully intentional. These workers were instigated to go back home though they had legal scopes for work. Many workers who got in trouble made these complaints.”

The letter further claimed that an NGO based in Malaysia, Tenaganita, was arranging funds for repatriation of these workers.

“On the other hand, members of IMA Research Foundation in Dhaka are instigating the guardians and parents through mobile phones to bring back their sons. Besides, workers are also tempted that the money they spent (to go to Malaysia) could be realised from the manpower bureau, recruiting agency or brokers concerned,” the letter said.

While the global economic meltdown made headlines in newspapers across the world, the labour wing’s letter named a number of mega projects in Malaysia, saying that with the set up of these new industries, Malaysia was becoming a very potential labour market for Bangladeshi workers.

“But, to tap these potentials, the conspiracy to repatriate the workers must be stopped. Malaysian employers expect workers to complete their job contracts. Instigating workers to return home without any valid reason is affecting both the workers and the employers,” the letter added.

The letter further added that when the employers are financially affected, it is not possible for them to pay the wages of the workers. “As a result, workers are falling into a vicious cycle. The employers might lose confidence in Bangladeshi workers which may result in restrictions on hiring Bangladeshis,” it said.

The labour wing asked the government to take actions against NGOs in Bangladesh, which are working to ‘bring back workers from Malaysia’.

The expatriates’ welfare ministry forwarded the letter to the home ministry asking for a probe into the activities of IMA Research Foundation. SB police submitted its report to the government after a two-month probe.

One of the investigators said they checked all the documents of IMA Research Foundation. The voluntary organisation, set up by workers cheated in Malaysia, basically helps workers cheated by brokers or recruiters and helps them realise compensation.

“We did not find any conspiracy here,” the investigator said.

Meanwhile, following complaints filed by these cheated workers who were forced to return to the country, BMET investigated the issues and found the allegations to be true.

The expatriates’ welfare ministry on February 3 wrote to the recruiting agency Ardent International — through which the complainants had gone to Malaysia — that the workers had not been recruited as per the contracts and that therefore the complainants were financially affected.

“As compensation, they should be paid Tk 6,00,000 (Tk120,000 each),” the letter signed by the ministry’s Deputy Secretary Shafique Anwar, said.

Enamul Haque, one of the complainants, said during their 17-month stay in Malaysia, the workers had been in employment for only two to three months. Other than that, they had to live in a shelter house arranged by the Bangladesh High Commission, in different ‘go-downs’ and even under a bridge.

“We had to accept the money to return home, because the way we were forced to survive in Malaysia was intolerable,” said Enamul who had spent Tk 2.3 lakh to go there.

“We went to Tenaganita only to get help when our work permits expired. Our high commission did not help us renew our work permits.”

Sources concerned say recruiting agencies and brokers influenced the labour wing officials to write such letter because workers were returning home and realising compensation from the agencies through BMET.

IMA Research Foundation has become a target because it has come to the aid of helpless workers and also helps them get compensation, where no one else was coming forward to help them, a returnee said.

Source: The Daily Star, 09 April 2009

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