An investigation by journalists in Malaysia has found that thousands of Bangladeshi students were brought into the country by fraudulent private universities offering them higher education through agents, and are now working as undocumented workers instead.
R.AGE, the youth news and lifestyle platform of The Star, reported that many students have been charged over RM20,000 (around Tk400,000) by agents to secure student visas and admission into these fake institutions.
Upon arrival, the students realise that the universities are not real, nor can they work under student visas. Without any choice, they work illegally in inhumane conditions to repay their debts and buy a ticket home. Many still continue to pay the agents to renew their student visas to continue working.
Agents are either based in Bangladesh or in Malaysia. As students arrive in Malaysia, they rely on their agent, because they do not know anyone in the new country and cannot speak in the new language.
Malaysian Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh told The Star Online: “This was happening when EMGS (Education Malaysia Global Services) system picked up a surge in the number of Bangladeshi students. We have taken action against nine colleges in 2016 and 2017, so the numbers have dropped.”
He said only 1,100 Bangladeshi students' visa applications had been approved so far this year, compared to 16,000 in 2016 and 23,000 in 2015.
A 24-year-old victim of the fraud, who requested anonymity, told the Malay Mail online: “I cannot go home because my family spent all their money on the agent fees. Now I need to work here to pay for my father’s medicine.” Another victim said his family had to take up a loan, with a monthly instalment of Tk21,000 (RM1,100) to finance his trip here to study.
The ministry will now work with R.AGE and other NGOs to tackle the situation. Victims can seek to continue their studies in other colleges, and the cost will be covered by the fraudulent colleges.