MALAYSIA: In a recent development, the Immigration Department of Malaysia apprehended 171 Bangladeshi foreign workers who attempted to file a police report against their agents.
The workers, who had entered Malaysia legally, found themselves without employment three months after arriving.
Frustrated by the lack of work, they walked approximately 10 kilometres to the Bayu Damai police station on 20 December to seek assistance.
Kota Tinggi District Police Chief Supt Hussin Zamora confirmed the detention, stating that the workers, aged 19 to 43, were detained at the Immigration Department’s headquarters in Setia Tropika.
They are now under investigation in accordance with Section 15(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63.
The police report filed by the workers highlighted their predicament, shedding light on the exploitation faced by foreign workers who, despite entering the country legally, were left unemployed.
The incident gained public attention when a video clip of the Bangladeshi workers marching together near the Ramunia Bayu Damai entrance surfaced on social media.
Labor activists have criticized such situations, pointing out the exploitation of foreign workers who often find themselves in precarious conditions in Malaysia, despite having legal status.
Government mobilizes aid and plans policy revisions in response to exploitation of Bangladeshi workers
The case has prompted responses from government authorities, with the Human Resources Ministry pledging to assist over 100 Bangladeshis allegedly deceived by recruitment agents.
Minister Steven Sim stated that while the specific case was beyond the ministry’s jurisdiction, they would extend humanitarian aid to the affected workers.
Sim emphasized the ministry’s commitment to taking stern action against those found guilty, maintaining a freeze on applications for migrant workers.
Sim also revealed plans to meet with Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail to discuss policy improvements related to migrant workers.
The objective is to address the challenges faced by foreign workers and prevent further instances of exploitation.
Earlier discussions between the ministries aimed at determining responsibilities for matters concerning migrant workers, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to protect the rights and well-being of foreign labor in Malaysia.
Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said, who also serves as the Minister of Law and Institutional Reform, has called for an immediate investigation into the syndicate responsible for deceiving 171 Bangladeshis into coming to Malaysia for non-existent jobs.
Describing the incident in her constituency as merely “the tip of the iceberg,” Azalina emphasizes the need to hold the involved companies accountable through a comprehensive investigation.
The objective is to determine how legitimate migrant workers have been exploited with false promises of employment in Malaysia.
In an X posting, Azalina condemns these actions as crimes against humanity and advocates for taking decisive action against irresponsible businesses, particularly within the business sector.
Her strong stance underscores the urgency of addressing human rights violations and ensuring accountability.
I commend Human Resources Minister YB @scheekeong on extending assistance to migrant workers who have been allegedly duped by recruitment agents promising to secure them jobs.
As MP Pengerang, I had reached out to YB Steven Sim as I am told that about 2500 of these duped…
— Azalina Othman Said (@AzalinaOthmanS) December 26, 2023
The International Organization for Migration Malaysia noted that as of 2022, there were approximately 2.2 million documented migrant workers in Malaysia, according to the Malaysian Department of Statistics.
Unofficial estimates of undocumented or irregular migrants vary from 1.2 to 3.5 million positioning Malaysia as one of the largest migrant-receiving countries in Southeast Asia.
This context adds depth to the challenges and complexities associated with migrant workers in Malaysia, urging a comprehensive and coordinated approach to safeguard their rights and well-being.
Video sparks public debate on safety concerns and perceptions amidst Malaysia’s rising migrant population
In a circulating video, the uploader expresses concern about the increasing number of migrant workers in Malaysia.
The caption accompanying the video questions the safety of the population in a country with a substantial foreign workforce.
It suggests that victims of crime are typically ordinary people, as opposed to dignitaries or authorities who reside in well-guarded quarters.
The uploader notes that these dignitaries live in secured bungalows, guarded round the clock, and do not experience the same worries as ordinary citizens.
The video emphasizes that it is the ordinary people, residing in close proximity to foreign workers, who harbour concerns about their presence.
This observation suggests a potential disconnect between the experiences of those in protected environments and those who share their living spaces with immigrant communities.
Shared on Orang Kota-Tinggi’s Facebook, the video has garnered significant attention, eliciting 4,000 reactions from netizens and sparking over 1,500 comments.
One user expressed concern over the escalating presence of foreigners in this region of Malaysia, questioning which party should be held accountable for this surge.
The user emphasized the need for the government to prioritize more than just profit, cautioning that an unregulated influx of foreigners might jeopardize the sovereignty of Malaysia.
Another user called for decisive government actions to control migrant workers, drawing a comparison between Malaysia and Singapore’s regulations.
The user pointed out that, unlike in Singapore, where employers are required to hire local workers under certain conditions before employing foreigners, Malaysia lacks a similar stringent approach.
Drawing attention to the living arrangements of migrant workers, another user highlighted the contrast between Singapore and Malaysia.
In Singapore, migrant workers reside in dormitories provided by employers, segregated from the local population, while in Malaysia, they often live in flats or apartments, mingling with local residents.
Calls for strict measures and urgent repatriation to safeguard national security
Several users suggested the government implement strict measures.
One proposal included a six-month grace period for foreigners without proper documentation to leave Malaysia, with the threat of caning and imprisonment for those who exceed this limit.
The intention behind this suggestion was to instil fear and discourage undocumented stay.
Another user stressed the importance of addressing the issue of migrants with valid permits but no employment, foreseeing that this situation could lead to them becoming illegal immigrants.
The user urged immediate repatriation of such individuals to their home countries and advocated for stringent actions against the involved employers.
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