Bangladesh, Malaysia must transparently regulate recruitment

The Malaysia-based migrant and human rights network organizations –CARAM Asia, TENAGANITA and North South Initiatives have called upon Bangladesh and Malaysia governments to strictly regulate and reform recruitment process with transparency and integrity.
In a message, those NGOs said that ‘as Malaysia hosted a joint working group meeting in Kuala Lumpur on May 30-31 to work out the new recruitment plan for Bangladeshi migrant workers who come to Malaysia to work, we hope that an accountable and transparent recruitment plan is established at this joint meeting in order to provide the adequate protection for migrant workers. ;
The fact that civil society is not consulted in this process raises too many questions. As Malaysia and Bangladesh are currently in negotiations for recruitment, it is important we analyse the root causes of the abuses caused by non-transparent dubious recruitment practices seen in the past.
CARAM Asia and its members Tenaganita and North South Initiative, migrant rights NGOS who work closely with migrant workers in Malaysia, are concerned by the continuous ill-treatment towards migrants workers and their rights violations starting from sending country and particularly by agents and employers in Malaysia.
There are approximately 6 million migrant workers in Malaysia and out of this number; there are around one million (1,000,000) both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi workers most of whom are vulnerable to exploitation.
Migrant workers continue to face numerous problems and they are the easy target for exploitation. Even workers who come with proper documentations are also subjected to various forms of violations. Malaysia and Bangladesh must give due recognition and dignity to the millions of migrant workers who make invaluable contribution towards Malaysia’s economy and also to their countries of origin. The non-existence of a comprehensive policy for the recruitment and employment of migrant workers has contributed to the continuous abuse of migrant workers including increasing their risk of being trafficked and exploited into forced labour conditions, especially those who are undocumented. It is estimated that there are between 2 to 4 million undocumented workers in Malaysia.
From the cases our member organizations have managed, we found that both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi workers face various degrees and types of abuses. Due to the abnormally high fees paid by Bangladeshi workers to come to Malaysia in comparison to other nationalities, Bangladeshi workers’ risks of being abused are much higher.
Malaysia must adopt governance with integrity especially in the recruitment of migrant workers. The system of recruiting foreign workers through labour agents should be abolished and recruitment should be done via a government mechanism which requires government entities in both countries to manage the selection and placement of workers.
This could highly lessen the probability of migrant workers accepting deceptive terms of employment and also reduce the abuses. It is very clear that the labour recruiters from both country of origin and destination have taken advantage of people desperately seeking employment opportunities by imposing exorbitant recruitment fees.
We need to identify and eradicate these irresponsible and unscrupulous syndicate or individuals with intentions to cheat the migrant workers and they should be prosecuted. We should ensure that past mistakes on the recruitment of migrant workers are not repeated as it will impact millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers.
History has shown that the migrant workers situation will not improve unless both the Governments especially the Malaysian Government pays attention to recruitment issues in a holistic manner.
Governments should include and involve CSOs & other stake holders in the planning process from the very beginning of negotiations. The CARAM Asia network is extremely concerned about migrant workers’ current situation in Malaysia and expects the new government to consider migrants’ human rights in line with international human rights standards. – Press release