A group of Bangladeshi conmen in Malaysia are swindling millions of Taka from their countrymen who work there without proper documents, taking advantage of their trust and lack of knowledge of proper procedures.
The Immigration Department of Malaysia announced in February that illegal workers from Bangladesh and 14 other countries could gain legal status under a rehiring programme, obtaining an “e-card” from the department at almost no cost at all. The deadline was set for June 30, and a massive bout of arrests followed.
This week, Malaysian authorities assured a Bangladeshi delegation that the deadline would be extended until December 31 and that employers should submit names of their workers to avoid arrest.
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While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, several illegal workers in Malaysia, like the one in the picture living a rather sub-standard life, said gangs of Bangladeshi brokers were taking up to Tk1,50,000 from illegal workers who wished to get legal status Courtesy
Bangladeshi workers in the country told the Dhaka Tribune that many who did not know about the offer or were afraid to communicate with authorities were cheated by other Bangladeshis who asked for exorbitant sums of money for something that was essentially free. This has deterred many from getting their e-cards.
Some Bangladeshis who work in very remote areas to avoid detention remained in the dark about the offer. Brokers and middlemen were their only trusted sources.
The Immigration Department of Malaysia and the Bangladesh High Commission there have repeatedly urged illegal workers not to pay middlemen and brokers.
Several workers told the Dhaka Tribune that gangs of Bangladeshi brokers were taking up to Tk1,50,000 from illegal workers who wished to get a card.
One worker said he and others he knew had paid RM7,000-RM8,000 (Tk1,31,725 to Tk1,50,543) to brokers to get e-cards.
Aminur Rahman, an illegal worker, confessed that he did not know anything about the rehiring programme even after it had gone on for five months.
“Only recently I contacted a Bangladeshi asking him how to get a card and he demanded around RM10,000 from me for the job.”
Aminur said he had paid Tk2,50,000 to smugglers who brought him to Malaysia by sea.
“They had promised to bring me here for Tk1,50,000, but when I reached Malaysia after a 15-day journey from Cox’s Bazar, the syndicate confined me and forced my family to pay Tk2,50,000. They threatened to kill me,” he said.
“We were deceived in Dhaka and now we are being deceived in Malaysia by our own people,” said Aminur.
Sayem, a Dhaka-based recruiting agent, said: “In March I paid RM5,200 to a Bangladeshi middleman in Kuala Lumpur to get an E-card for one of my relatives.”
He added: “Hundreds of illegal workers in Malaysia paid a huge amount of money to middlemen to get the e-card.”
Several others migrant workers also shared the same experience.
Trapped and exploited
One man from Satkhira, who would not give his name, said: “We are hopeless and helpless. Everyone tries to exploit me. We paid to our own people but they cheated us.”
Several workers who were deceived by Bangladeshi middlemen claimed that they were physically threatened by the gangs when trying to contact the high commission.
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Several illegal workers, who try to find some pleasure of life by cooking together in not an ideal kitchen environment, claimed that they were physically threatened by the conmen gangs when trying to contact the high commission in Kuala Lumpur Courtesy
Aminur said: “Bangladeshi middlemen stand around the high commission's gate. They know who we are, they stop us on our way and threaten us.”
He said: “The middlemen took MR8,000-10,000 (Tk151,945 to Tk189,931) from one of my co-workers in the name of giving e-card. Although they took the money, they did not do anything for us. They just exploit us as we are not legal here.”
Wasim, an undocumented worker who hailed from Jhikargacha upazila of Jessore, said: “Middlemen say that if we enter the premises of the high commission without legal documents, or a huge amount of money, then officials there will detain us and will hand over to local law enforcers.”
These middlemen sometimes snatch passports and money from illegal workers. If they decline to pay, they inform the immigration police about their address, claimed several workers.
“We pay the middlemen on a regular basis to avoid arrest. They have all kinds of information, even they can inform us about the drives,” said Rubel, who went to Malaysia around six months ago through a local trafficker.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Md Shahidul Islam admitted that the workers were held hostage by these gangs.
He said: “Illegal Bangladeshi workers suffer terribly when they listen to the middlemen. They are always trying to exploit the illegal workers. They scare the workers away from contacting us.”
The high commissioner said: “We opened one-stop service for illegal workers. The operation will start in full swing within 15-20 days.”
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Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Md Shahidul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune that if illegal Bangladeshi workers complete the legal status paperwork through the high commission Kuala Lumpur, they just have to pay RM100 maximum Courtesy
He requested illegal Bangladeshi workers not to pay any middlemen to get legal status.
The official said that if any illegal worker comes to high commission directly, they have to pay at most RM100 to complete the process.
Jabed Ahmed, additional secretary of Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, said: “We are aware about these syndicates. We are trying to curb their criminal activities, but it is quite difficult as the illegal workers trust them rather than our officials.”
He claimed that the high commission is trying to convince the workers through promotional drives across Malaysia not to pay to middlemen or brokers.
Md Shujayet Ullah, joint secretary of Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, said: “Most of the illegal migrants are illiterate and uneducated. They also work in remote areas to avoid detention. That is why getting news about the rehiring programme is not easy for them.
“Not only that, sometimes the employers of the illegal workers bar the workers from getting legalised, as they pay much less to them than legal workers,” he said.
Sources said that around 400,000 Bangladeshis are working legally in different sectors in Malaysia, but there is no precise number for undocumented Bangladeshis there, although several sources claim at least 10,000 Bangladeshis are now languishing in Malaysian jails.
Malaysia, which has a population of 31 million, relies heavily on foreign labour for manual work in several key industries. There are some two million registered foreign workers in Malaysia and another million are believed to be working illegally.