Bangladesh govt’s stance against syndication is commendable

Besides, though the Malaysian human resources minister sent a letter for workers’ migration through syndication, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad has taken a strong stance against the suggestion. He also reaffirmed his stance on providing equal opportunity to all licenced recruiting agencies so that they can send workers abroad.

Praising the government’s position on this matter, BAIRA leaders pointed out that despite such developments, 25 agencies are plotting to send workers to Malaysia through a syndicate.

In a press conference at a city hotel yesterday, the leaders said Amin Nur and BAIRA’s former secretary-general Ruhul Amin Shawpon are leading this syndicate in Bangladesh.

At the programme, BAIRA leaders demanded utmost transparency – in accordance with the prime minister’s directive – in the process of sending workers overseas, adequate steps to prevent fraud, cancellation of all possible syndicate systems for sending workers to Malaysia, and opening the labour market for all licenced recruiting agencies.

Former BAIRA president Abul Bashar presided over the event, while its ex-president Mohd Noor Ali attended as the chief guest.

The organisation’s former secretary-general Ali Haider Chowdhury, Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, and former vice-president Abul Barakat Bhuiyan and Shahadat Hossain were also present, among others.

Voicing their complaints at the press conference, BAIRA leaders said Amin Nur uses FWCMS and SPPA to send workers to Malaysia through syndication. The Mahathir government had stopped taking workers from Bangladesh in 2018 because of irregularities and corruption of 10 agencies.

Former BAIRA president Abul Bashar said that due to rampant irregularities, corruption, and exorbitant migration costs caused by the syndicate of 10 agencies centring recruitment of workers in Malaysia in 2016, the Mahathir government halted migration of Bangladeshi workers after just one and a half years.

Later, the auto distribution process of a Malaysian company named SPPA was cancelled. Both nations suffered losses after the Malaysian labour market was shut [for Bangladesh] due to widespread irregularities.

Abul Bashar said that after being halted for a long hiatus, the opportunity to send workers to Malaysia reemerged after both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on December 19 last year.

However, 25 members of the syndicate are trying relentlessly to make history repeat itself. Following the same trend, an additional 250 recruiting agencies are being promoted as associates or sub-agents. If their ill intentions materialises, innocent workers moving overseas and a lion’s share of licenced recruiting agency owners will suffer.

Present at the event, BAIRA’s ex-president Mohd Noor Ali praised the stance taken by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Minister Imran Ahmad on this matter.

He added that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given a firm directive for protecting those seeking overseas employment from harassment and exorbitant expenses.

Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Saravanan mentioned 25 recruiting agencies in a letter to Minister Imran Ahmad on January 14.

In response, Imran Ahmad on January 18 wrote to Saravanan, firmly opposing the selection of a small number of recruiting agencies and reiterated calls for allowing Bangladesh’s licenced recruiting agencies an equal opportunity for manpower export.

The expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment minister’s stance is commendable. We want equal opportunities for all legal agencies to stop all sorts of corruption. There are opportunities to send millions of workers to Malaysia. Since the manpower export process to Malaysia resumed, we wanted the legal, licenced recruiting agencies to export the workforce at a low cost.

About the previous syndication, Noor Ali said they had told the AGM that they would take only the service charge for sending people. But the syndicate’s main players, Amin Nur and Ruhul Amin Shawpon, did not keep the word.

This time, too, they are plotting to form a syndicate of 25 agencies. There are 1,500 registered recruiting agencies but only 25 are being talked about. Who are they? You’ll find many among them (the 25 agencies) have not sent a single person abroad in their lifetime. How have they been selected by Malaysia?

About the system, he said that Amin Nur, owner of Bestinet, had controlled the whole process through FWCMS and SPPA. And Ruhul Amin Shawpon is his partner.

It was seen that instead of automatic inclusion in the system, only those who had paid extra money to Amin Nur had their approvals incorporated into it. The demand letters of those who did not pay never made it to the system.

But Ruhul Amin Shawpon’s demand was entered into the system in 10 minutes. But the demand of others could not enter the system in 15 days. They had embezzled extra money citing the system. The Mahathir government had scrapped the SPPA system for corruption.

Mohd Noor Ali said the Bangladesh government could propose a system to ensure transparency in the manpower export process which the Malaysian government would approve. Or these two countries could jointly introduce a system that the two governments would control so that no one can create a monopoly.

Mohd Noor Ali said the 10-agency syndicate had sent 2,75,000 people. But they failed to send anyone to Malaysian electronics and securities sectors that had a massive demand [for workers].

They managed to send a small number of people in the hand gloves and plantation sectors that had high demand. We will lose these potential sectors if there’s any syndication this time.

Mohd Noor Ali said the employers bear the airfare and other expenses while hiring workers from Indonesia and Nepal. In that case, why should Bangladesh send people with extra migration costs citing the system? It has been seen that around 9 lakh workers have gone to various countries under private management in recent years. If that’s possible, why won’t it be possible for Malaysia?

Noor Ali said the MoU between Malaysia and Bangladesh does not mention syndication. It said that a list of all legal recruiting agencies will be sent to the Malaysian government. The Malaysian employers will pick the recruiting agencies of their choice from among them.

It was said at the press conference that BAIRA members had welcomed the directives – given by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the cabinet meeting on February 7 – to ensure greater transparency in the migration sector and prevent fraud. Besides, they expressed gratitude for the reply of the expatriates’ welfare minister to the Malaysian human resources minister’s letter containing the syndication matter.

It was said at the briefing that after a long suspension, manpower exports from Bangladesh to Malaysia had resumed through an MoU signed between the two countries on December 19 last year. However, despite clear directives of the prime minister and the expatriates’ welfare minister, a vested interest group was making ill attempts like before to let a few agencies control the Malaysian labour market.

At the press conference, Malay leaders said Malaysian employers do not want any syndicate or monopoly in hiring workers from Bangladesh. They said Malaysian people expect Bangladeshi workers to go to Malaysia in the same process followed by workers of 14 source countries.

Malay leaders said Bangladeshi workers have to go to Malaysia through the legal recruiting agencies of both countries and Malaysian employers are not interested in hiring workers through any syndicate. They said they expect workers to go to Malaysia by paying low migration costs. They further said there would be careful measures to protect the interests of all migrant workers in line with the international and domestic labour laws.

*Medical centre issue

It was said at the press conference the health ministry and the expatriates’ welfare ministry have to jointly check the standard of medical centres and then select the ones that Malaysia-bound workers will go to for a check-up. There is no way to depend on foreign service providers in the name of biomedical testing.

Foreign service providers previously swindled huge sums of money on various pretexts, such as online X-ray report examination by Malaysian doctors and biomedical testing. About 40 per cent of the potential migrant workers were rendered medically unfit in the first phase for commercial interests.

Despite the so-called digitalisation and modernity, thousands of migrants were rendered medically unfit from Malaysia. Workers from the 14 countries had to undergo a second health check-up after going to Malaysia, which was done through the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Programme (FOMEMA), an agency approved by the Malaysian health ministry.

As the health examination system and standard of Bangladeshi medical centres – selected by FWCMS for unethical business purposes – were not the same as that of FOMEMA, many workers had to return home empty-handed due to medical unfitness.

There is no need for a second medical examination in Malaysia if the FOMEMA standard or its equivalent can be ensured for aspiring migrant workers. For this, the government of Bangladesh itself has to specify and monitor the medical centres for the Malaysia-bound workers.

Past experiences show due to the weakness of the biomedical portal of FWCMS, reports of hundreds of workers got deleted from the records while medical reports of thousands of workers were not received even after a month. As a result, employers hired workers from other countries.

Thousands of workers were deprived of good fortune due to ill attempts to control the health examination business. Surprisingly, without getting permission from the Bangladesh government, FWCMS has re-published the names of 35 medical centres on its website. However, none of those is a leading medical or diagnostic centre or hospital in Bangladesh.

Barishal Watch

News Desk

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