Undocumented Bangladeshi workers start to get registered, end years of sufferings
After years of sufferings due to their irregular status, thousands of undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia today join many other irregular foreign workers for biometric registration as a step to their regularisation.
The registration begins as per Kuala Lumpur’s earlier announced amnesty for about two million irregular workers in the country that also has around two million regular workers.
The amnesty allows the undocumented migrants to return home without facing penalty or to get registered to stay back as regular workers.
Bangladesh has around five lakh workers in the Southeast Asian country with an estimated three lakh of them irregular.
Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein said on Friday the registration will continue until all foreign workers are registered. He, however, warned the employers not to delay registration of their workers.
He had said earlier the registration would continue for two weeks.
Mantu Kumar Biswas, labour counsellor at Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur, said, “This [amnesty] is a great opportunity for us. So, I would urge all our workers here to get registered.”
Quoting the Malaysian home ministry, the counsellor told The Daily Star yesterday that the immigration department through its offices across the country will get the undocumented migrants registered free of cost. It has also appointed 336 private firms for doing the job.
The firms are allowed to charge Malaysian ringgit 35 (I RM=Tk 25) for a worker’s registration, said home ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim. He warned of actions against any firm that overcharges workers.
Many Bangladeshis too have become sub-agents for taking fingerprints of workers, and have been publicising the amnesty programme in different places with concentration of workers.
Mantu Kumar said an undocumented worker, who is employed, has to go to a registration centre with the employer. If a worker does not find an employer, he will have to get registered on his own. They will require photocopy of their passports, and those who do not have passports will have to get registered as per their personal information furnished in the birth certificates or citizen certificate. The workers whose passports are in the immigration department for renewal of work permits will be registered as regular workers, he said.
WHO ARE UNDOCUMENTED?
The foreign workers who do not have valid work permits are irregular workers. In many such cases, the employers refused to arrange renewal of work permits or the workers themselves changed jobs. Besides, there are cases in which the Malaysian immigration department did not renew work permits for unknown reasons. And there are many who came to Malaysia as tourists or students but stayed back.
Malaysian migrants’ rights activist Irene Fernandez said that in 2006, 2007 and 2008, nearly four lakh Bangladeshis were hired by outsourcing companies and many of those failed to manage jobs for them. Many principal companies too did the same. So, the workers hired legally also became irregular, she mentioned.
WORKERS HOPE HIGH
The irregular workers appear upbeat about the amnesty programme.
“I have not seen my loved ones for four long years. I don’t know how my kid looks like,” said Basir, who hails from Comilla.
“As soon as work permits are renewed, I will go back home,” he told The Daily Star in Kota Raya area of Kuala Lumpur.
“We have to face numerous problems for not having work permits. We cannot move freely for fear of police arrest,” he said.
Many other irregular workers narrated similar sufferings.
-With The Daily Star input