Malaysia, Bangladesh ink deal allowing re-entry of workers

MALAYSIA: After a three-year suspension, Malaysia signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding until December 2026 with Bangladesh to recruit workers from the latter to solve a labour shortage in plantation, production, agriculture, mining, construction, and domestic service sectors, among others.

M. Saravanan, Malaysia’s Human Resources minister, and Imran Ahmed, Bangladesh’s Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment minister inked the MoU to be overseen by Bangladeshi and Malaysian working groups.

“This MoU, among others, outlines the responsibilities of the Malaysian and Bangladeshi governments, as well as employees and employers and employment agents from both countries,” Saravan said.

Shahidul Alam, Bangladeshi director-general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, commented, “The door that remained shut for so long has opened through the signing of this MoU. This is such wonderful news for both the countries.”

Saravanan reminded that employers must provide housing for workers, as stipulated in the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446). “This is intended to address elements of forced labour associated with accommodation facilities or employee housing,” he noted.

The minister also outlined a set of standard operating procedures in pre-departure, arrival, quarantine period, and post-quarantine.

Workers must have complete vaccination against Covid-19, and be tested two days before departing Bangladesh. They should enter Malaysia through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and should quarantine in the Klang Valley centres for seven days with screening tests on the second and fifth days of the quarantine period.

“In the post-quarantine phase, foreign workers will be brought to their respective workplaces and will undergo a health inspection,” Saravanan added.

He mentioned that a total of 326,669 documented Bangladeshi workers, mostly from the manufacturing and construction industries, have been in the country since November 30.

Malaysia suspended the hiring of Bangladeshi workers in 2018 over alleged recruitment malpractice, including high fees solicited from migrant workers.

Meanwhile, Andy Hall, a known migrant worker rights activist, cited the lack of transparency in the MoU details, saying, “Absent so far from today’s activities and related public press statements are details about what was actually agreed upon in the MoU negotiations between the two ministers and the actual contents of the finalized MoU and its related protocols.”

“This total lack of transparency so far gives the real and present fears of a return to illicit and syndicated recruitment activities that could easily lead to systemic debt bondage and forced labour of Bangladeshi workers newly brought into Malaysia under the new deal,” he lamented.

Hall urged Malaysia and Bangladesh to make known the details of the agreement because he said, “so much is at stake, and so many doubts and so much distrust about the integrity of the process remain.”

Related news: Fully vaccinated foreign workers may return to Malaysia

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