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BD-Malaysia agree to review MoU signed in 2021

JWG meeting in this month for the review

Published : Monday, 6 February, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 241

The governments of Bangladesh and Malaysia have finally agreed to review the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries in December 19, 2021 to make the process of sending migrant workers easier and faster along with lower migration cost.

In the Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting to be held in this month, the issues would be discussed and finalized, Bangladesh's Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed said in a briefing after separate bilateral meetings with visiting Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail held at Probashi Kallyan Bhaban on Sunday.

Before the briefing, Imran Ahmed held at meeting at his ministry conference room while Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal also held a separate meeting with the visiting Malaysian Home Minister at the state guest house Padma in Dhaka.

While briefing media, Expatriate Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed said, "Changes in the MoU for the benefit of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, and reduction of immigration costs among other things came up at the meeting. A working group meeting will be held between Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur this month to decide on these issues."

"Everything that is related to our interests has been discussed. Everything including the matter of migration cost has been discussed. One thing must be remembered, this is a new government. Whatever we talked about with the previous government, now there will be a big change. The Malaysian minister has assured this," he added.

Imran said, "There is a matter of changing the MoU. More changes will be made if necessary. But the Malaysian minister doesn't want to give the final decision yet. I believe that taking the responsibility he talked about the matter. Hope, we will get something good from the meeting."

The Expatriate Welfare, however, did not respond to questions on increasing the number of recruiting agencies to send workers to Malaysia.

While talking to reporters after the meeting at the same place, Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said, "I will take this opportunity to update the Bangladesh government on two things. One is the worker relaxation plan. We will speed up the process of hiring and the Malaysian government commits to reduce the migration cost."

"Another issue is the recalibration programme," he said adding, "There are many illegal workers in Malaysia including Bangladeshis. They are being legalised through a process. This programme has started from January 27 this year. I would like to inform that 55 percent of the legalization of the workers we have approved in a week were Bangladeshi workers."

"We have reduced the approval time. Previously it used to take 20 to 30 days. Now approval is given in two to three days. This is a major policy change of our government," he further added.

After the meeting with Malaysian Home Minister, Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal didn't talk to the media at State Guesthouse Padma.

Bangladesh and Malaysia on December 19, 2021 signed a MoU on the employment of Bangladeshi workers in the Southeast Asian country keeping the provision to select the migrants sending recruiting agencies to the Malaysian authorities. Taking the advantage of the provision, Malaysian authorities have selected only 100 recruiting agencies for sending migrants there from Bangladesh.

The MoU was widely criticised by the recruiting agencies and other stakeholders for allowing a limited number of agencies to send workers from a list of 1,620 valid agencies Bangladesh sent to the country.
Though Bangladesh government fixed the migration cost at around Tk 79,000, workers are forced to pay Tk 3 to 4 lakh to the agencies, according to the various allegations from the stakeholders.

Around 70,000 Bangladeshi workers have migrated to Malaysia till last January after the signing MoU in December 2021 against the demand letters of around 2.5 lakh the Malaysian government sent.

Earlier at a meeting with the delegation of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), an apex body of the recruiting agents, held at Hotel InterContinental in Dhaka, Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail expressed his dissatisfaction over the workers' recruitment process from Bangladesh.

BAIRA Chief Adviser Mohd Noor Ali led the delegation while its Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former Secretary General Ali Haider Chowdhury, Senior Vice President Reaz Ul Islam, Vice President Abul Barakat Bhuiyan, Joint Secretary General Fakhrul Islam and Finance Secretary Mizanur Rahman were present at Saturday's meeting with the visiting Malaysian minister.

During the meeting, the BAIRA leaders urged the Malaysian minister to open the labour market for Bangladesh like Malaysia did with Nepal and other migrants sending countries, to better safeguard the interest of workers and all BAIRA members.

In the meeting, Saifuddin discussed key issues with the BAIRA leaders including health screening service, auto-rotation among recruiting agencies, and lack of an adequate number of e-Visa processing centres.

He informed that Malaysia may decide to bypass these recruiting procedures, and initiate a fast-track system to bring in up to 5.5 lakh Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia, similarly to other sourcing countries such as Nepal, meeting sources said.

In the meeting, BAIRA leaders discussed the overly convoluted and monopolistic recruitment system with the minister.

They also mentioned that for every person recruited, ten are undergoing health screenings. Only Bangladesh has the auto-rotation system, but the other 13 sourcing countries do not have this procedure. This is a very harmful system.

Insiders say that the Malaysian home minister has acknowledged the corruption in MiGRAMS, and pointed out that such a malpractice should not have happened with the poor people.

It should be noted that only MEFC - controlled by Bestinet owner Datuk Seri Amin Bin Abdul Nor - is controlling the recruitment process of Malaysia bound workers.

Bangladeshi recruiting agencies receive work orders from Malaysian recruiters. But a Bestinet controlled system uses an auto-rotation method to distribute work orders among Bangladeshi recruiters.
Due to this faulty system, a work order submitted by a recruiting agency can go to another agency which may not have involvement in the process in any way, industry insiders say.

They added that the agency which originally submitted the work order now has to pay around Tk 1.5 lakh or 5,500 ringgit per worker to another agency as service charge.

The issuance of e-Visa used to take around 1-3 day, but now it takes around 20-25 days. Such additional costs and delays are pushing up the migration costs for Bangladeshis planning to work in Malaysia.

According to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Bangladesh and Malaysia back in December 2021, it is not mandatory to conduct health screenings in Bangladesh.

A worker has to spend Tk 7,500 for health screening, and an extra 100 ringgits (Tk 2,700) for MiGRAMS registration. These costs are supposed to be paid by a Malaysian employer, not by the Bangladeshi workers.

Speaking to this correspondent, BAIRA Secretary Generak Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said, "The Malaysian home minister is well aware of what has happened in Bangladesh regarding the manpower recruitment process, and what is happening now.

"He will take necessary measures so that workers can work in that country through a much simpler and cheaper process. So Bangladeshi workers can find work in Malaysia under the cheapest and fastest system possible," Noman added.

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