171 Bangladeshi workers detained: MEF pushes for action against unscrupulous agents

27 Dec 2023 04:57pm
Screenshots from a viral video showing the Bangladeshis marching in a long line in Pengerang, Johor. - Social media video screenshot.
Screenshots from a viral video showing the Bangladeshis marching in a long line in Pengerang, Johor. - Social media video screenshot.

SHAH ALAM - The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has called for decisive action against businesses, recruitment agents, and any parties involved in exploiting foreign workers, following the plight of 171 Bangladeshi men in Johor Bahru.

In a statement, MEF President Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman stressed the gravity of the situation, stressing that "such issues involve human lives and the image of the country."

He declared MEF's firm stance against leniency in such serious cases.

"MEF's position is clear – stern action must be taken against businesses, recruitment agents, and others who abuse their positions.

"The government must exert full control over foreign worker recruitment and management," he said in a statement today.

To eradicate such exploitative practices that tarnish Malaysia's reputation, MEF proposes establishing a single-source centre under the Human Resource Ministry.

This centralised platform would streamline procedures and facilitate oversight, effectively curbing abuse.

Syed Hussain further highlighted the importance of upholding international labor migration standards as outlined in the ILO Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No.143).

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This convention emphasises measures to combat undocumented migration while advocating for the fundamental human rights of all migrant workers.

"The convention guarantees equality of opportunity and treatment for migrant workers in areas like employment, social security, and cultural rights.

"It protects their individual and collective freedoms, ensuring dignified treatment no less favourable than that afforded to local citizens," he said.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty Director Zaid Malek has slammed the recent arrest of the Bangladeshi workers.

He urged immediate release, citing their legal entry into the country and their attempt to seek police assistance against exploitative agents.

"It's outrageous that despite admitting these migrants entered legally and sought to file a police report, they were instead detained for alleged overstaying," Zaid reportedly stated.

He called for decisive action beyond mere assurances, demanding concrete measures to hold the responsible agents accountable.

The 171 Bangladeshi men were arrested recently at Kota Tinggi in Johor after walking in a large group, raising concerns among local residents.

The migrants reportedly wanted to press charges against their agents as they claimed they had yet to be employed after three to six months.

The Bangladeshi men, aged between 19 and 43, were handed over to the Immigration Department for alleged overstaying in the country despite all of them having valid documents.

The incident also caught the attention of two former Pakatan Harapan MPs who urged immigration authorities not to criminalise the workers.

Former Klang MP Charles Santiago, in a posting on X, urged authorities against going after the workers whom he described as victims.

Meanwhile, former Sungai Buloh MP R Sivarasa said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should immediately investigate how the agent obtained the Immigration Department’s approval to bring in workers when there were no jobs available.