14 Feb 2016
DHAKA: Bangladesh and Malaysia were urged to develop a comprehensive policy to manage migration processes with a bilateral agreement.
The urge was made by Tenaganita, Malaysian non-governmental organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women, migrants & refugees, in a press statement issued on February 13.
They also urged Bangladesh government not to bow down to exploitative policy demands of the Malaysian government while, at the same time, to support efforts to combat corruption, which is the root of this exploitation.
It alleged that the powerful continue to appropriate record profits from the pockets of the poorest of society; in this case, they are migrant workers from Bangladesh as monopolization continues in Malaysia.
A comprehensive policy is needed to improve the situation that placed migrant workers at risky and hazardous situations where they suffer all forms of physiological and health related issue because of the sub-human extremely pitiable working and living conditions.
Such was the case of Mohammad Babul who returned home from Malaysia with shattered dreams of pulling his family out of poverty when he sustained 40% burns in an accident at his workplace two years ago.
Babul arrived in Malaysia in 2006, at the age of 17, to work as a driver as promised by agent but was forced to join a manufacturing company, where he earned RM 700 or just over Tk 13,000 a month.
His employer confiscated his documents five years after he had gone there restricting his freedom of movements. After a couple of years, he finally joined a construction company hoping to earn more. But it cost him dearly.
His luck took a grim turn when molten iron ore fell on him at work on January 4, 2014. The factory authorities refused to take responsibility.
This is the reality for most migrant workers in Malaysia.
Tenaganita (Women’s Force) said, Malaysia has created an underclass of workers called migrant workers, who face extreme forms of exploitation and violations that reflect modern day slavery.
They are forced to work through mental and physical threats, they work long hours often without a paid day off, their movements are confined, and their passport withheld. Many are dehumanized and treated as commodity.
According to analysis conducted by the NGO, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take actions against the responsible owners, developers and contractors.
Further to that, many of these workers are also undocumented, hired by subcontractors to complete the project within certain duration of time, working very long hours for the most minimum of wage, cheap labor, and in slave–like situation.
The Malaysian NGO also called for stop the corrupt system that continuously profits from the poor and vulnerable.
The statement further said, such accidents must be prevented from happening for we are talking about the safety of a worker’s life. Just because all the victims are migrant workers, ignorance and inefficiency in handling these accident cases are not to be compromised nor tolerated.
Workers faced a wide range of violations at the hands of agents, ranging from false promises of pay and work, deplorable work conditions, severe deductions from pay, passports and documents being withheld and threats of arrest and detention.
Therefore, Tenaganita gives a set of recommendations for the Bangladesh government:
1) To development a comprehensive policy to manage migration processes between Malaysia and Bangladesh with a bilateral agreement
2) To establish easier and more accessible migration process that is transparent with proper monitoring mechanism
3) That the practice of using agents for the recruitment and placement of migrants be abolished
4) Take actions against unethical, unscrupulous and corrupted recruiting agents, who are trafficking workers into Malaysia with false terms and conditions of work
5) Create awareness on migration and risk involved in migration in the pre-departure training program
6) To develop state assistance program in host country with cross country referrals
7) Establish repatriation and integration program for returning migrants
8) That a government-to-government migrant recruitment and placement policy is practiced that holds at its core the protection of workers’ rights and dignity be implemented immediately, and
9) That the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia be proactive in addressing complaints raised, and that the labor attaché will ensure better protection of rights and representation of the workers, who are seeking redress.
The rights organization urged Bangladesh government not to compromise on the protection of rights, lives and dignity of its citizens, who are here to eke out a living for their loved ones and their country.
A human life is so precious and we must do all that we can to protect it, and not merely think of it as a means to end a project or as a commodity for profit purposes, the statement added.
BDST: 1435 HRS, Feb 14, 2016
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