Shattered Dreams Of Migrant Workers -5

Shady Manpower Deals

No action taken against misdeeds of agencies

Recruiting agencies took to shady deals in sending workers to Malaysia but remained unaccountable to anyone for their misdeeds that led to joblessness, exploitation and deportation of thousands of Bangladeshis.

Agencies were engaged in a rat race to ‘procure’ as many job approval letters as they needed from employers and outsourcing companies through Bangladeshi brokers in Malaysia using underhand transactions, businesses said.

Agencies are learnt to have spent around Tk 1 lakh to ‘buy’ each job approval letters from employers.

They gave no thought to the consequences. Some agencies refrained from doing manpower business with Malaysia sensing its ultimate bad impacts but most of them continued.

“Most of our recruiting agencies do not care for workers. They send jobseekers without verifying actual requirements. They neither know workers nor employers in person but send them in bulk on the basis of papers only,” said a recruiting agent.

They completely ignored negotiating with employers for salaries and facilities of workers.

“As moneymaking was the ultimate goal most agencies linked to this illegal trade with Malaysia did not care about the actual labour requirements and the type of workers Malaysia needs and so on,” the recruiting agent said.

This is the reason why manpower brokers and even Malaysian employers continued to go on confidently with illegal practices, he noted.

This is also reflected in a statement of Talat Mahmud Khan, labour counsellor of Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, who has been recently called back.

During a recent interview in the high commission in Kuala Lumpur he told The Daily Star: “Recruiting agencies do not have any representative in Malaysia and so they became dependent on brokers.”

He thinks if the recruiting agencies get the approvals directly from the employers instead of any middlemen like manpower brokers it would be better.

Businesses said the problem started when Malaysia started manpower recruitment in 2006.

The then Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) President and BNP lawmaker MAH Salim and his men struck a deal with Malaysian authorities for fresh manpower recruitment opening scopes for a vested quarter to indulge in underhand dealings, said a then Baira leader.

“The then government had barely played any role in this regard; Baira used political clout while dealing with Malaysian authorities,” he said.

As a result, the jobseekers paid Tk 2 lakh to Tk 2.5 lakh to go to Malaysia while the government rate was only Tk 84,000, he added.

The high payment even did not ensure their jobs; when they arrived in Malaysia they were left stranded in the airport for days and confined to “godowns”. They were jobless and those who got jobs remained unpaid for months.

Employers did not help them get medical tests done, issue or renew work permits. They even confiscated passports and forced them to take money from home to get back passports.

When such exploitation and sufferings went on unabated workers and their families urged the recruiting agencies repeatedly to take measures but all their efforts went in vain.

A single example of 30 workers who returned from Malaysia on April 5 is enough to substantiate it. These workers went to Malaysia in May 2007 but employers neither got their work permits issued nor were they provided jobs.

They repeatedly complained to Tangail Overseas, their family members wrote to the agencies and to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), but of no use.

Similar problems sent thousands of workers back home. Many complained to the BMET. But except for a few cases, agencies are now playing hide-and-seek in giving compensation to the deported workers.

“After lodging complaint to the BMET I appeared six times for the hearing before the investigation officer (IO) but nothing has happened so far,” said Mohammad Ibrahim who returned home from Malaysia after being cheated in late 2007.

He said the BMET’s IO said he sent all his documents to the ministry. “It is one and a half years since I had lodged the complaint but nothing has happened.”

“I don’t know what nexus the government and recruiting agencies have but I cannot go to Dhaka from Mymensingh time and again because I am stony broke after spending around Tk 3 lakh for going to Malaysia,” Ibrahim said.

Another returnee Enamul Haque said the recruiting agency Ardent International did not compensate them though BMET directed it to pay damages. Now the BMET again sent the letter to the expatriates’ welfare ministry, he said.

“What game is this with our lives?” Enamul posed a question.

Migrants’ rights body, IMA Research Foundation, recorded that workers in groups lodged a total of 129 complaints with the BMET but only 47 had been settled so far.

Source: The Daily Star, 10 April 2009


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