• Monday, Sep 16, 2019
  • Last Update : 12:52 am

Will Bangladesh ensure safe return of detained migrants from Malaysia?

  • Published at 12:28 am July 7th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:28 am July 7th, 2018
In this picture taken late July 11, 2017, migrant workers sit amidst Malaysian immigration officials following a raid at a construction site in Port DicksonAFP
In this picture taken late July 11, 2017, migrant workers sit amidst Malaysian immigration officials following a raid at a construction site in Port Dickson AFP

The total includes 399 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, 164 from Indonesia, 157 from the Philippines, 109 from Myanmar, 43 from Thailand and 41 from Vietnam

Hundreds of undocumented Bangladeshi workers have been detained in Malaysia as part of the country’s crackdown against illegal migrants. 

According to Malaysian newspapers, the national immigration department has apprehended a total of 1,224 foreign nationals since the drive began on Monday.

The total includes 399 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, 164 from Indonesia, 157 from the Philippines, 109 from Myanmar, 43 from Thailand and 41 from Vietnam.

Bangladeshi Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Nomita Halder said the country’s detainees had failed to comply with a June 30 deadline under Malaysia’s illegal Migrants Rehiring Program.

“These people are illegal in Malaysia according to the country’s law and they have to come back,” she said. 

“The ministry can do only one thing right now - ensure the safe return of the detained Bangladeshis.”

The Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia, Sayedul Islam, told the Dhaka Tribune that “most” of the undocumented Bangladeshi workers took the rehiring opportunity, which had been available since February 16, 2016.

He could not, however, give a precise figure for them. 

“The illegal Bangladeshi workers who have been detained already can return to Bangladesh after paying RM400 (Malaysian ringgit), otherwise they have to stay in jail,” he said.

The rehiring program was launched to provide illegal foreign workers with valid permits to work in certain sectors.

With the program now closed, Malaysia wants to repatriate the undocumented migrants, as housing them at 13 detention centres across the country is costing the country about RM25 million annually.

Rights bodies, however, are demanding the government to reconsider their proposal and immediately stop the crackdown.

Many Bangladeshi workers have been legalized or are under process, but those applied through agents have reportedly been cheated.

Farique Ahmed, a migrants’ rights campaigner and the secretary general of WARBE Development Foundation, suggested the detained workers may have been pure in motive.  

“Most of the illegal migrants are illiterate and unaware about the law,” he said. “The trade unions of Malaysia should consider the socio economic condition of the Bangladeshi illegal workers.”

Malaysian Immigration Department’s Director General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali was unmoved. “We will continue the drive against illegal workers,” he said.

According to data from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), over 960,000 Bangladeshi workers have travelled to Malaysia with immigration clearance between 1976 and May 2018.