Labour export to Malaysia: Why is Bangladesh different among 14 labour sourcing countries?

Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Cambodia and Lao PDR are among 14 countries sending labourers to Malaysia

A section of owners of the country's manpower recruiting agencies have asked for the reason behind allowing a syndicate to send workers to Malaysia, while 13 other labour sourcing countries do not have any syndicate.

They said the decision, which is not fully supported by many local Malaysian recruiting agencies as well, would increase migration costs and also compromise the safety of the workers as well.  

They were speaking at a discussion at the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) in the capital.

All the participants, from local lawmakers, manpower recruiting agencies and representatives of manpower recruiting agencies of Malaysia said the attempt at establishing a 25-agency syndicate for sending workers from Bangladesh did not comply with the laws of the two countries and also compromised safe migration.

Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Cambodia and Lao PDR are among 14 countries sending labourers to Malaysia.

Keynote speaker Shariful Hasan, who is head of the Brac Migration Program, said that the Malaysian labour market had been open for 7-8 years in the last 40 years.

Every time while reopening the market, the previous initiative was termed a mistake and a better process was  opted for. New scope for corruption was always facilitated, he added.

He mentioned that Malaysian Minister for Human Resources M Sarvan had sent a letter to Dhaka on January 14 on hiring workers through only 25 recruiting agencies. 

In reply, the expatriate minister of Bangladesh, citing the Competition Act 2012 of the country, said that there was no scope to allow only 25 agencies in the recruitment process.

For safe migration and to solve all the problems related to the migration, any sort of syndication needed to be stopped, he said, adding: “Malaysia receives labour from 13 other countries. But there is no syndicate. Then why is there a need for a syndicate for Bangladesh?”

Former president of Baira Mohammed Abul Basher said that the authorities had prevented the formation of a syndicate during 2018-19.

Mentioning that syndicates should not be allowed in any form, he asked: “If 513 members of manpower recruiting agencies of Malaysia can get their opportunities, then why not Bangladeshis?”

Sukumaran Nair, a representative of a Malaysian recruiting agency, said that the MoU allowing 25 agencies nowhere complied with the Competition Law 2010 of his country as well.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary-general of Baira, said what was needed foremost for now was to reopen the market by ensuring safe migration along with lower cost.

Former president of Baira Mohammed Noor Ali noted that syndication would increase cost and make the process lengthy, which in turn would increase the chances of trafficking, he added.

Anisul Islam Mahmud, the former minister of environment and forest, said that the previous experiences of the 10-syndicate system showed how futile the process is. The selection process of the 25 agencies should be disclosed in detail to make the process more transparent.

He also emphasized strong diplomatic and strategic bargaining between the two countries to ensure safe migration.  

Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, chair, Bangladesh Parliamentarians' Caucus on Migration and Development, said that the country had failed to ensure a completely automated recruiting process till now for workers.

Tackling the current situation with 20 to 25 agencies was not possible. Therefore, the market should be made wide open for all, he added. 

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